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Guidelines Offered For Fall Benefits Enrollment Period As Obamacare Kicks In

With the advent of more requirements and regulations as Obamacare kicks in, this year’s enrollment period promises to provide more work, headaches for HR leaders.

Mercer Consultants have developed a checklist for employers to help them steer a more productive course during this hectic time.

This checklist is based on Mercer’s extensive experience in helping plan sponsors design, communicate and administer health benefit programs. It also is based on key findings from the 2011 Mercer Workplace Survey™, an annual, nationally representative study of employees who participate in their employer’s company-sponsored health plan.

  • Use Open Enrollment to reinforce the value of your health and benefits program - Employees clearly appreciate their employer-sponsored benefits; 79%* say their benefits are one of the primary reasons they work where they do, and 91%* say that getting health benefits through work is just as important as getting a salary. Open Enrollment is also a great opportunity to promote the tools and educational materials that help employees make better enrollment decisions.
  • Understand the implications and scenarios of health care reform – Even before the recent Supreme Court ruling on the federal health care reform law, more than one-third (36%*) of employees expected employers to change health plan benefits due to health care reform, more than double the level reported one year earlier. Employers should work with consultants, administrators and other stakeholders now in order to finalize all the requirements to be in compliance and allow enough time to implement and communicate plan changes.
  • Leverage online/electronic communications – 90% of employees of Mercer’s health and benefits administration clients enrolled online during the 2012 Open Enrollment period.  Given that employees are receptive to receiving information online, consider also the cost savings of e-delivery of Open Enrollment materials. Other electronic communications like personalized emails, micro-sites and text messages have proven both popular and effective at driving informed employee enrollment behaviors.
  • Consider adding a wellness program - Employees are increasingly appreciative of and engaged with wellness programs. Of the 61% who report that their company offers such benefits, 30%* say they take advantage of these benefits "a great deal" – up significantly from 23% in 2010.  These programs provide effective forums to drive employee appreciation of and adoption of healthy behaviors, improving both employee engagement and the bottom line.
  • Move ahead of the crowd - The vast majority of Mercer Outsourcing’s health and benefits administration clients have their Open Enrollment windows start and/or end between the last week of October and the first two weeks of November.  Consider when you offer your window to allow ample time for critical post-enrollment deliverables such as ID cards and targeted communication and education, particularly as related to health care reform.

Health care reform has made Open Enrollment planning even more complex and daunting for plan sponsors,” said Rich VanThournout, Health & Benefits business leader, Mercer’s Outsourcing business.  “Our checklist will help organize and prioritize key initiatives that in combination can ensure a successful Open Enrollment season for participants, employers and the vendors who support them.”

“Best-in-class health benefit strategies place a very strong emphasis on flawless implementation and administration, especially during the critical open enrollment season,” said Stephen Kreuger, Partner, Mercer’s Health & Benefits business.  “Even with the impact of health care reform top of mind, Mercer’s checklist brings into focus the broader array of issues and ideas that plan sponsors need to consider well in advance of engaging participants in their health programs.”


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