2018 open enrollment trends: Staying ahead of the curve

Dr. Raffi Terzian | BenefitsPRO

As health care continues to grow increasingly complex, the repercussions can be especially apparent during open enrollment season. Whether organizations are changing their plans, adding new offerings or switching their approach, open enrollment can often best be described as controlled chaos for those leading the charge.

With this year’s open enrollment just around the corner for most organizations, now is the time to think ahead. Brokers and consultants can play an integral role in reducing the burden for their clients by helping them stay abreast of both ongoing and emerging trends and issues facing HR professionals. Here are nine trends and common issues to be aware of:

  1. HDHPs – The continued adoption of high-deductible and other consumer-driven health plans are driving employees to look for options that make the most of their health care dollars. Helping employees understand their options and how their choice may impact costs can help avoid issues later on.
  2. Plan changes – Between policy updates, mergers and cost shifts, the plans available to employees frequently change. This can adjust their level of coverage, premiums and cost-sharing responsibility, and provider network, making it critical that they have resources to help determine the best fit for their needs.
  3. Prescription coverage changes – As part of other plan modifications or new offerings, yearly changes to prescription coverage can also have a big impact on employees (especially those on long-term medication for chronic conditions, etc.), so it’s even more important to communicate these changes effectively to avoid issues down the road.
  4. Diverse workforce – Employees represent a span of generations, lifestyles and backgrounds, so one size plan does not fit all. It’s important that open enrollment options provide for this variety of needs.
  5. Digital options – From online platforms that help employees select plans to plan offerings like telemedicine, digital technology is playing a growing role in open enrollment as well as benefits in general.
  6. Multi-channel outreach – In addition to utilizing technology, many employers are looking to diversify their benefits communication in order to reach more employees in the ways they seek information. This can include mailers, posters, emails, small meetings, and much more.
  7. Concierge services – Due to the increasing confusion of open enrollment, more and more organizations are offering resources and services to help employees navigate the complexities. This can help reduce the burden on HR as well as ensure employees make more informed decisions.
  8. Addons – Many employees have a wide variety of additional options to consider adding during open enrollment, which may lead to confusion about what is best for each individual and their family. Effectively explaining these options, their costs and their benefits can make a big difference.
  9. Overworked HR team – As benefits continue get more complex, HR teams field an increasing number of questions and concerns from employees, especially during open enrollment.

Addressing some of these key challenges or issues in advance can help make this year’s open enrollment process smooth and successful. Open enrollment may be challenging, but working together with clients to plan ahead can enable organizations to overcome issues, leading to a more effective benefits year ahead.

Dr. Terzian is a board certified Emergency Physician with nearly 20 years of clinical and administrative experience. Before joining Health Advocate, Dr. Terzian led educational programs at a number of the country’s top teaching hospitals.