Between new health care reform compliance requirements and the ongoing trend toward greater individual accountability, planning for this year’s open enrollment season is proving to be more complex than ever. On Aug. 7, Mercer presented a webcast to help employers prepare for a successful 2015 open enrollment period, focusing on employee communication and compliance issues. View the webcast replay here. Meanwhile, here are a few key open enrollment pointers from Mercer consultants.
Communicate early and often to the newly eligible (and to those who are not) — 2015 is going to be the big year for the employer shared responsibility mandate under ACA, as employers must now extend coverage to all employees working 30 or more hours per week. Mercer is urging sponsors that will have a large number of employees becoming newly eligible to start communicating with them right away to let them know that they are now eligible (and why), how eligibility was determined, and what they have to now consider. (This is particularly important if employees enrolled in subsidized coverage in the public exchange in 2014 and will not be eligible for a subsidy in 2015 when affordable, minimum value coverage is offered by their employer.) Information should also be delivered to those who remain ineligible and have options in the public exchange. We polled the webcast participants about their communication strategies in this regard, and about two-fifths of those with newly eligible employees said they are planning special communications to this population prior to open enrollment.
Make voluntary benefits a big part of the open enrollment message — Voluntary benefits can deliver significant value to employees and are an important element of a thoughtfully designed benefits program. For example, an employer that has introduced a high-deductible consumer-directed health plan should consider promoting a voluntary hospital indemnity plan to help assuage fears of potentially high out-of-pocket expenses. These offerings can also assist employees who remain ineligible for the employer-sponsored medical plan.
Use open enrollment as an opportunity to reinforce wellness campaigns — Mercer is encouraging all of its clients with new or existing wellness campaigns to use open enrollment as a means to reinforce the value and rules surrounding these programs. This is particularly important if any perceived compliance penalties are going to be introduced next year, such as higher premiums for those who do not participate in health screenings.
Deploy decision-support and mobile technology to support the accountability theme — Participants are being asked like never before to take accountability for their health benefit decisions and cost outlays. Employers can help by providing decision-support tools that empower participants at the exact time and place that they need to make important decisions. For example, some employers are providing digital “wallet cards” for smart phones and other devices that contain benefit information and contacts needed at the point of service or anywhere else a participant needs information or advice.