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Open Enrollment in 2023 Will Be Like No Other

October 12, 2022

By Elise Thorpe, Vice President

As employers head into open enrollment season, it is necessary for them to reflect on the current environment facing employees to ensure success.

Many employers have moved to hybrid or full remote work environments, making it more difficult to reach and engage employees.

We also have the unique stressors of inflation and a potential recession, both of which put additional financial burdens on employees, adding to this already stressful time for important decision-making.

There are numerous concerns employers should consider including:

• Reducing the knowledge gap

• Enhancing the education and use of cost comparison tools, and

• Expanding communications.

Educating Employees on Insurance

The language of insurance is foreign to most employees and especially to the younger generations, many of whom remain on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.

Facing tough financial times, it’s important for employees to understand the concepts and definitions of “deductible,” “coinsurance,” “out-of-pocket maximums” and how each may impact them as they receive healthcare.

SHRM recently reported that 49% of employees feel pressure to select the most expensive health insurance option to ensure they have the coverage they need.

In addition, 72% wish someone would tell them what the best health insurance is for their unique situation. Yet, they don’t feel comfortable asking HR, and instead lean on families and friends.

Decision Support Tools Help Employees

Employers should strongly consider utilizing decision support tools during the open enrollment process. Vendors, such as Jellyvision’s ALEX and Picwell, offer engaging programs that provide personalized, digital enrollment guidance to lead employees to the best health plan option. This saves them money and better protects their personal risk.

Oftentimes on behalf of our clients, we negotiate technology funds from carriers to provide these services to their employees without additional cost to the organization.

These decision support tools are a win-win helping to educate employees on the options, reduce their stress during Open Enrollment and making employees feel more confident in their decisions.

Employees Don’t Always Compare Healthcare Costs

Employers also need to improve the education on and utilization of cost-comparison tools so employees know how to use their plans most effectively.

A new report, Health Care Literacy Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, shows that 62% of respondents said they don't always compare costs before receiving care. In most cases this means they are paying more than they have to, and, in turn, it costs the employer more as well.

Only 10% of respondents said they even check whether their medical provider or facility is in-network whenever their health plan changes.

Open Enrollment is a great time to remind employees how to be a better consumers in their healthcare, but this needs to be a year-round process.

Provider Search & Cost Comparison Tools Create Better Informed Employees

Insurance carriers offer employees the ability to not only look to see if their providers are in-network online, but also if they are a “preferred provider.” This means the carrier has evaluated the provider and designated them as a value-based provider offering high-quality health services at the lowest cost, saving money for the employee and the employer.

Showing employees how to identify these providers during open enrollment can be valuable.

In addition, most insurance carriers offer online cost comparison tools. These tools allow employees to search for a health procedure such as a particular surgery and see what the frequency and costs are at various facilities.

These tools are intended to drive better consumerism and engage employees in their healthcare.

Again, walking employees through this process during open enrollment, and even several times throughout the year, can be beneficial to both employees and employer.

Evolution of Open Enrollment Communications

In terms of open enrollment communications, after the pandemic we’ve had to evolve and reach people in a new way, whether that be because employees are working from home or because they are still navigating their emotions through some challenging times.

We encourage employers to really take the time to consider if they have a new identity as a result of the pandemic and reflect on how employees now want to receive important information such as details about their benefits program.

If you aren’t confident about how your employees want to receive benefits communications, you still have time to conduct an employee survey and ask those key questions to make sure your message doesn’t fall flat.

Finding the Best Way to Communicate About Open Enrollment

As more employers go green with their benefits communications deliverables we’ve seen a great shift from traditional printed benefits communications materials to more electronic delivery.

We’ve also seen a variety of electronic formats used for OE communication distribution including emails, e-cards, virtual webinars and fairs, and videos, to name a few.

We can’t stress enough the value of a quick video. People are overwhelmed with email. If you have an important message to deliver about your benefits or want to enhance education on a concept such as an HSA, consider a quick Zoom recording to make employees feel comfortable with the change.

And leverage educational videos from your insurance broker or the insurance carriers to help convey how your various plan types work.

Hybrid Communication Model May Work Best

Given the broad array of workforce demographics in today’s world, the most successful campaigns are a combination of print and virtual.

For example, if you have a population of employees who don’t have access to a computer as part of their daily job, you might consider creating a benefits overview document to highlight the key changes for the upcoming plan year and include reminders or key dates by when they need to enroll. This can be mailed to their home or passed out at in-person open enrollment meetings.

Benefits Experience a Driving Factor in Employee Retention

As benefits continue to be a driving factor of employee retention and attraction, employers must realize it’s not just about the benefits they offer, but their employees’ experience with their benefits.

SHRM reports 63% of employees say their company's health insurance offerings affect how much they want to keep working there.

During open enrollment it’s important to consider providing decision-support tools to support personalized decision-making, improve employee education on how to use their plans most cost effectively, and communicate in multiple ways with a clear and consistent message.

This will help you retain your current talent base and attract new talent in the tight labor market.