August 6, 2019

Open Enrollment 101: Be Prepared for This Year’s Upcoming Open Enrollment Period

Continuous Improvement, HCM System Support, Year End Payroll Planning
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Open enrollment in the United States is defined by a period of time that allows employees of companies and organizations to apply for or make changes to their workplace benefits. Here, the HR and payroll experts at Wise Consulting discuss everything you need to know about open enrollment so you can be fluent in the intricacies of this important time period and properly communicate to your employees about the benefits you offer and what they need to do.

What is Open Enrollment?

During the open enrollment period, employees can choose to update or purchase the fringe benefits they receive from their place of work, which can include health insurance, dental insurance, life and disability insurance and more. Ancillary and voluntary benefits, such as pet insurance, may also be available options to choose during this period. Some employers are able to fund all or a portion of the monthly premium on behalf of their employees; the rest must come from the employee through paycheck deductions. Depending upon the type of insurance, the deduction may be considered ‘pre-tax’, reducing the employee’s federal and/or state taxable wages and associated tax withholding. The benefit plans, options, and associated costs will have a significant impact on the decisions your employees make during open enrollment. That is why it is essential that you thoroughly explain the benefits options available to your employees so they can make the appropriate decisions for their individual life circumstances.

When Does Open Enrollment Take Place?

For companies with a calendar year plan, the 2020 open enrollment period generally begins on November 1, 2019, and ends on December 15, 2019. During this timeframe, companies normally choose the most appropriate two- to three-week period to open their systems to accept employee new elections or changes their current choices. Insurance plans that are elected during the upcoming open enrollment period will be put into effect on January 1, 2020. Once the open enrollment period ends, employees will have to wait until the following year to make changes to their benefits and insurance plans, unless they have a qualifying life event occur such as marriage or a new childbirth/adoption (see below). As an employer, communicating these deadlines to your employees is critical.

How is Special Enrollment Different From Open Enrollment for Health Insurance?

Life happens sometimes, and your employees may experience significant life changes or even emergencies that require them to make immediate changes to their health insurance. These circumstances, which can include having a baby, getting married, getting divorced or a spouse losing coverage may qualify your employees for a special enrollment period that allows them to make any necessary changes to their insurance plans outside of the open enrollment window.

What are Best Practices for Open Enrollment?

As an employer, it is your duty to notify your employees about insurance-related information that may be relevant to them and inform them about the approaching open enrollment period weeks in advance. This way, you can give your employees time to review their options and make the appropriate updates to their individual benefits.  Utilizing the features of your HR/Payroll (HRIS / HCM) system enables employees to compare options and costs, as well as features such as deductibles of each available plan.

If, as an employer, you have decided to add or change benefits or insurance providers, you will also need to be sure that this new package is integrated into your HRIS system. Thorough testing of the changes and file transfers to your providers is critical and may take a couple of months.  This is where HR benefits and technology specialists, such as those at Wise Consulting, can help, ensuring this goes as smoothly as possible.  Leaving employees with questions or without proof of their coverage even for a day is not acceptable.

Learn More From an HR Expert at Wise Consulting

The HR benefits and technology professionals at Wise Consulting have years of experience providing the tools and resources you need to implement a smooth open enrollment. If you have further questions about the upcoming open enrollment period or benefits integration with your HRIS, and you would like to speak to one of our dedicated HR professionals, contact Wise Consulting today!