Employee Benefits

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Consider these simple steps to reduce employee benefits issues.

So, you’ve made it through another year. You’ve established an enrollment deadline for your employees and collected all their benefits selections. You can finally put open enrollment behind you… right?

NOT SO FAST!

After the enrollment deadline, companies still have certain responsibilities for employee benefits before moving forward into the next year. You may be asking yourself “Now what? Isn’t open enrollment over?” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.   

Here are a set of best practices to ensure smooth sailings for employee benefits after open enrollment:

Check for Errors
Insurance carriers have the tendency to not process enrollments if key pieces of information are missing, so double-check the enrollments to ensure the data employees included is accurate and that all required fields have been populated.  A good benefits enrollment solution will ensure that all the required information is collected prior to an employee completing the enrollment process.

Send Benefits Enrollment Data to Insurance Carriers
Regardless of how Open Enrollment was conducted, the data needs to be sent to the insurance carriers.  This can happen in several different ways depending on how you collected benefits enrollments, or if you made any changes:

  • Your Broker - If the process was a manual or paper process, depending on the broker, you may be able to track the data in a spreadsheet or provide them with it. If your broker is one that provides added value, they will ensure the data is transmitted to the carriers. Depending on what method of data transmission your broker is using will determine how long the carrier will take to process these changes.
  • Data Entry into Carrier Software - Typically insurance carriers have software that allow you to enter open enrollment data or changes to benefits.  However, if you have multiple insurance carriers, you’ll be logging into each of these solutions to input your employee benefits selections and changes.  On the plus side, this will be processed very quickly.
  • Fax or Email Enrollment Forms -  If enrollments were collected via paper or electronic forms, insurance carriers usually have a fax number or secure email address that this information can be delivered to.  However, utilizing this transmission method will mean slower processing times by carriers.
  • EDI File Feeds - If open enrollment was conducted through your HRIS or benefits solution, there should be an opportunity to send this data through an EDI or 834 file feedwhich typically acts as a direct connection to the insurance carrier software. Carrier processing time should be no different than if you were manually adding the data into the insurance carrier site yourself. 

Update Payroll
There are several benefits changes that can impact payroll and result in changes to an employees’ deductions each pay period: 

  • Rates / Premium Changes  Even if your company keeps the same carriers and plans, there may be increases in the premium amounts from the previous year. 
  • Switching or Adding Plans  Even if premiums stayed the same, employees may choose different plans than the previous year or add additional plan types.  Perhaps a company is now offering dental, vision, life insurance, or short and long term disability plans, employees adding these to their benefits portfolio these would result in changes to the premium amounts from the previous year.

Easy-Tech-Joke.jpgUnless the company covers 100 percent of the premium cost, these changes will mean an employee’s deductions each pay period will vary. These changes must be conveyed to your payroll company or updated in your payroll software. If you’re utilizing a benefits enrollment solution, it should integrate with your payroll offering, or at least provide an export that can be sent to your payroll company or imported into your payroll software.

Send COBRA Initial Notices
Changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) resulted in changes to COBRA legislation, specifically requiring employers to send initial COBRA notices to employees or their dependents upon enrolling in benefits. Unlike the COBRA Qualifying Event Notice, the COBRA Initial Notice sent to someone enrolling in benefits does not need to be delivered through mail, and can be sent through email instead. COBRA software helps with automating the administration of COBRA and reduces risk of non-compliance.  If you haven’t already, it may make sense to outsource COBRA administration.

Circle Back with Employees
Check that every employee received their I.D. for health coverage and that they understand the details of their policy. The follow-through ensures that your employees remain satisfied and have the coverage they need for their concerns and their family and eliminate issues when they go to the doctor to learn they were never enrolled in coverage.  Also, take note of any employee feedback on the plans for planning purposes when plans are being evaluated for employees next year. 

Analyze the Results & Compare Them to the Previous Year
A key part of talent acquisition and retention lies in benefits. In fact, according to Aflac, 79 percent of employees say benefits are “very” or “extremely” important to their job satisfaction.  To ensure a benefits offering is in line with employee needs, compare employee participation rates from the previous year and make note of any trends in plan changes. 

Create a Benefits Administration Plan
Be ready to handle benefits administration changes throughout the year due to new enrollments, life change events, and terminations.  These processes can be automated through a benefits enrollment solution and the benefits changes can be automatically delivered with the use of a carrier connection solution.

Following these best practices will ensure, once open enrollment is complete, that your business will experience less problems with employee benefits after the fact. Remember to always keep your employees in the loop, maintain clean and accurate benefits data, and utilize the right tools to automate these processes and send carriers benefits changes.

Don’t be caught in a bad situation because of a lack of preparation and planning. Make use of every resource available to prevent problems from occurring before they spring up.

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