The Complete Guide to Open Enrollment for Employers

It’s here! Open Enrollment for your group health insurance plan has come around again, running from November 1 – December 15. Now is the time when you can choose new benefits, or review and change existing health insurance benefits for your employees, and we get it: this time of year can be hectic and stressful, with all of the questions that employees (and you!) might have. Not only that, but you’ve got the weight on your shoulders of knowing that this is your one chance to get this done until next year! But don’t worry, we’ve got you – first, check out our tips below for a smooth Open Enrollment, and then speak to an EZ agent who can help you find the perfect plan for you and your employees. 

employees sitting at desks in an office
To qualify for group health insurance, your business must have at least 1 full time employee other than yourself or your spouse.

Does Your Small Business Qualify for Group Health Insurance?

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re new to offering group health insurance to your employees, you might be wondering how you qualify to offer it. Well, it’s actually pretty simple, and more likely than not, your business will qualify! You need to:

  • Have at least one full-time employee who is not the business owner, or the spouse of the business owner
  • Be legally registered as a business entity in your state (regulation for this varies from state to state)
  • Contribute at least 50% to your employees’ monthly premiums

Why Take Advantage of Open Enrollment?

Ok, so your business qualifies to offer group health insurance, but should you? And if you’ve already got a plan in place, why review it during Open Enrollment? Well, there are a few very good reasons to do both:

  • You and your employees can save money – Enrolling in a group health insurance plan is often cheaper than enrolling in an individual plan. Not only that, but the more employees you can get to sign up, the cheaper the plan could be.
  • Changes in life circumstances mean changes in insurance needs – If you do already offer group health, you definitely need to take advantage of Open Enrollment and use this time to reassess your and your employees’ needs. Has anything major changed, like births, deaths, or marriages? If so, you might be able to find a plan that offers better or more tailored coverage for a better price.
  • Group health can mean tax advantagesWho doesn’t love to save on their taxes? Take this time to look into ways you could be saving, like checking if you qualify for the small business health care tax credit, or by choosing to offer tax-advantaged healthcare options, like HSAs, FSAs, or HRAs. 

What Should You Be Thinking About When Choosing a Plan?

Another important basic step in the process: knowing what you should be thinking about when exploring your options. Here are 4 essential factors that should go into your decision-making process:woman in a blue button up shirt with her hand on her chin and question marks around her

  • Costs associated with the plan – You’ll want to consider how much employees want to pay in premiums, while also remembering that you have to contribute at least 50% of the amount each month. Also keep in mind things like deductibles, copays, and coinsurance that can all add up, depending on how often your employees access medical services. 
  • The metal tiers of available plansFamiliarize yourself with the so-called metal tiers of plans: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. These terms have nothing to do with quality of care, rather they indicate what percentage of costs a plan will pay for covered benefits. For example, popular Silver plans will usually cover around 70% of costs, with the insured paying the remaining 30%. 
  • The type of plan you want – In addition to choosing a metal tier, you’ll also have to consider what type of plan you want to offer to your employees. For example, you can choose from HMO, PPO, POS, and EPO plans; each of these types of plan will offer different price points, since some are more flexible about things like network coverage.
  • Insurance companies – Check out which insurance companies offer plans in your area, and what their networks look like; you want to be sure that they offer affordable care in locations that are convenient for your employees.

What Should Employees Consider?

So you know what you need to be thinking about, but are you ready to answer your employees’ questions, or take on their concerns? You can help guide them in choosing or changing their plan by telling them to take the following factors into consideration:

  • The price of the plan – Let your employees know exactly how much the plan will cost them per paycheck.
  • Their dependents – Your employees should think about who they will need to have covered by their plan, especially if they plan on adding on family members in the coming year, or if they have added any new household members since last year. You’ll also need to make clear your policy on contributing to dependent coverage.person with a megaphone and exclamation points coming out of it
  • Any changes in coverage – Make sure your employees know what is covered under the plan, especially if there is anything new being added, like dental or vision coverage. 
  • Any added benefits – In addition, if your plan is going to have any new benefits, like telemedicine or wellness programs, let your employees know.

Top Tips for Employers

Group health insurance can seem a bit overwhelming, especially since studies show that 35% of employees have little to no understanding of their healthcare coverage! Not only that, but  22% of employees are confused during open enrollment, 20% are anxious, and 21% are stressed, so it can be tough to know how to approach this subject. But there are some ways to make the process go a little more smoothly. For example, you can:

  • Go digital – You don’t have to print out reams of paper, or have endless meetings with employees about benefits (which might be tough with all of the work-from-home going on right now)! Save paper, toner, and your and your employees’ sanity by offering everything in PDF form, and by considering holding a virtual benefits fair, which employees will be able to access when it works for them from the comfort of their home. 
  • Keep it simple – When emailing employees about their benefits, be as concise as possible, with price per paycheck and benefits clearly laid out, using language that is easy to understand. You can also include any FAQ sheets you get from your insurer or agent, as well as a glossary of terms and acronyms. 
  • Send out a surveyWhile you do have to be careful about privacy when it comes to employees’ health, there is no reason why you can’t send out an anonymous survey to find out what your employees are most interested in when it comes to their insurance plan, so you can either make a choice to change the plan you’re offering, or can recommend the right plan to them.
  • Be creative with your communication – Email is great, but you have tons of options when it comes to follow-up communication and reminders about enrollment, including:person sitting at a table with their cell phone in their hands
    • Text messages
    • Posters
    • A dedicated intranet webpage
    • Videos on screens in common spaces
    • Notices on paychecks (both hard checks and online)
    • A chat channel, through a platform like Slack
    • A Twitter chat, complete with hashtags that other employees can search

Yes, it’s Open Enrollment time again, what some might consider the most confusing time of the year. But you know? You got this, and we’ve got your back if you need help choosing, reviewing, or changing your employees’ healthcare plan. Come to EZ.Insure for a dedicated agent who can answer all of your questions, every step of the way, as well as find you fast, accurate quotes and sign you up for a great plan – all for free! No hassle, no obligation. To get started with us today, simply enter your zip code in the bar above or to speak to an agent, call 888-350-1890.

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