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Our heart goes out to people and businesses affected by COVID-19. Although we are not at the front-lines of the battle, we are working behind the scenes to ensure benefits operations run smoothly for thousands of employers and employees. We are helping pick up the slack on the multi-dimensional business impact of COVID-19 while continuing to drive down the liability, as all of us navigate back to stability.

There are many resources available to help organizations understand and handle different operational activities impacted. Below are some of the areas that we feel are critical for employers to be aware of and are particularly relevant to benefits management

Benefits Payments Collections for Furloughed Employees

Before COVID-19, our country's unemployment rate dropped down around 3.5%, with employers starting to leverage their benefits strategically to attract and retain employees. Within the past few months, we have observed the opposite trend driven by the pandemic, resulting in over 38 million people filing for unemployment. 

COVID-19 Layoff

Many businesses have reduced their employees' payroll to help stay afloat and preserve the workforce that has taken them much effort to build. These unprecedented times have had a significant impact on employees, making it difficult for them to fulfill the financial obligations that are tied to their payroll, such as benefits payments, mortgage, and 401k loan repayment. 

Employers can help ensure that furloughed employees stay on top of their financial obligations. One way to do that is to remind them of the financial obligations tied to their payroll and offer them a way to continue paying for services, even when they are out of office. We're proud to provide our Payments & Collections solution, a customizable portal that facilitates the collection of payments for benefits or mandatory services from employees on reduced payroll, furloughed, or on leave. It empowers the employees and helps ensure they won't lapse on their policies and other financial obligations. 

Managing the Increase of COBRA Activity

As our country faces a high volume of lay-offs, some experts say that unemployment rates in the US will reach 19% in 12 months-time. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our lives, maintaining accurate record-keeping is crucial for businesses. This means meeting compliance deadlines, sending COBRA election notices on time, and ensuring accuracy and timeliness of countless documents. With an uptick in COBRA activity, those outsourcing COBRA administration, or maintaining it in-house must have an appropriate processes in place to stay ahead of compliance requirements while the number of qualified COBRA cases continues to increase. One additional challenge is ongoing changes in the COBRA regulation designed to help COBRA participants during these difficult times but driving additional complexities for employers.

For those looking to automate this process, EverythingBenefits' COBRA Administration Software handles virtually every aspect of the process. One of our clients shared that it's a relief to no longer have to do manual COBRA entry each week and that "The way everything feeds automatically is beautiful!"

Managing Benefit Costs

With increased volatility in the workforce, businesses must carefully check carrier invoices to ensure that they are not getting billed for terminated employees. For the company's hiring, it's equally important to ensure that enrolled employees appear on the bill. These tasks can be done either manually or automatically by using tools specifically designed for that purpose.

Another place to help cut costs is through a dependent eligibility audit to help identify ineligible dependents on your benefits plan. Some examples of individuals that are not eligible include employees' nieces, nephews, grandparents, and spouses - depending on the company policy. While it may be challenging to address these issues at this time, allowing your company to engage in insurance fraud can lead to other compliance issues down the road. There are various tools available, such as our Automated Dependent Eligibility Audit, that can help you perform audits and collect the proper documentation from your employees to ensure that your company is covering eligible dependents.

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Thinking ahead – Open Enrollment 2020

With Open Enrollment not too far off, now may be a good time to start planning. We anticipate many changes in the enrollment process and the benefits themselves, such as a rise in benefits costs, changes in the size of benefits portfolios offered, new benefits to support remote staff, all of which may affect your budget. Most importantly, your company must find a way to track the high cost of benefits, as it will affect your hiring decisions and your business overall. 

For those handling open enrollment on paper or manually, now may be a time to go digital. With uncertainties around COVID-19, it's essential to be able to conduct the entire process virtually. We'd love to show you what our Benefits Enrollment & Management solution can do for your business, and the AI features that will empower your employees to make better decisions.

We're adding more benefits-related COVID news, so we encourage you to bookmark this page as we continue to update it with additional information. 

If you have questions or suggestions about this article, please contact our team!

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