Benefits Open Enrollment—A Peek Behind the Mystical HR Curtain

You
know the drill—the open enrollment package arrives, you go online to sign up
for benefits and your new insurance card arrives few weeks later.  Seems
simple right?  A wave of the magical HR wand
and everything is done.  Sorry folks but the “easy button” doesn’t exist
for the HR/Benefits Professional.



Humor
me for a minute and let’s pretend you are the benefits person at your company.  It’s
8:30 a.m. on June 4th.  You’re in a conference room sitting
across from your insurance broker who has just presented you with a renewal
from your medical insurance company that includes a huge premium
increase.  Your stomach drops and you begin to feel nauseous.  The
Large Claims Report shows several costly treatments for terminal illnesses and
your Premiums to Claims report is so bad that you’re almost in agreement with
the increase.  With this kind of a renewal offer you have no choice but to
shop competitors’ offers.  After enduring several in-person meetings with
insurance sales people you’ve managed to push the incumbent renewal offer down
to a level where your CFO won’t laugh you out of his office. 


It’s
time to present the renewal to the Benefits Committee.  You put together a
concise presentation of the offers you received, plan changes which could help
to soften the premium increase and your recommendation on the benefits package
for the upcoming year.  The committee decides that the deductible should
be increased and more cost sharing shifted towards employees this year. 
The company hasn’t been performing as it has historically and simply
can’t afford a several thousand-dollar increase.


Hit
the ground running.  It’s now late July and it’s time to start developing
the marketing and communication for this year’s open
enrollment.  You’ve posted the new benefits summaries on the intranet, created
open enrollment posters, drafted email communication, put together print
communication (open enrollment package), and set up benefits meetings with your
insurance representatives to educate employees on this year’s benefits
changes.  On top of the regular open enrollment preparation, this year
you’re working closely with a benefits attorney to ensure your company is
complying with PPACA’s (Healthcare Reform’s) changes that go into effect for
2013.  At this point your office is beginning to look like a hurricane
passed through and if you have any more energy drinks you might float away.


It’s
mid-August—you load the new rates into the HR/PayrollSystem and begin prepare the HRIS for this year’s open enrollment
session.  Testing the enrollment takes several weeks and
unfortunately you’ve run into a few snags with the coverage tiers not
working as they should.  Partnering with your payroll company
rep you’ve managed to solve these problems but it has taken a few
weeks and it’s already mid-September.  Open Enrollment begins in October
and ends a few weeks later.  Of course, you had to respond to several
complaints about the premium increase, cost shifting, increase in deductible
and regulatory FSA limit decrease but for the most part it goes off without a
hitch and ends a few weeks later. 


So
next time an Open Enrollment package lands on your desk or arrives
in your mailbox—take a moment to thank your HR/Benefits Professional for all
the sleepless nights and hard work that went into renewing your
benefits.  


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