Open enrollment amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be unlike any other in recent memory. Many organizations are still trying to recover from extended closures and maintain safe working environments – open enrollment is the last thing on their minds. Yet, procrastinating enrollment planning will cause more issues than it solves.
Expect major disruptions to open enrollment. From an operational standpoint, COVID-19 might surge in the fall and force states to reclose businesses. From a personnel standpoint, employees may not be comfortable returning if they feel unsafe. These are two worst-case scenarios among a multitude of potential disruptors stemming from COVID-19.
Trends to Watch
- Virtual Open Enrollment – Most organizations are expected to hold entirely virtual open enrollments. Virtual enrollment has been trending for several years and will almost certainly be the new standard; however, it’s not necessarily the solution for everyone. Employees’ technology skills, language barriers and past expectations will influence what open enrollment looks like across organizations. It’s up to individual employers to decide how to pair virtual solutions with other resources to meet the unique needs of their employees and the organization as a whole.
To learn more about virtual open enrollment and other digital strategies to achieve success, check out our “2020 Open Enrollment Guide.”
- Supplemental Health Plans – Many employers are meeting the challenges presented by COVID-19 through supplemental health plans with an emphasis on overall wellbeing. Since the beginning of the pandemic, employers have been looking for ways to control costs while providing employees with meaningful wellbeing resources to curb increased levels of burnout, stress, anxiety and the like. Adding optional health benefits can be a way to limit additional employer spending and provide assistance to employees who need it.
Employer Next Steps
Employers should talk to stakeholders early and prepare to answer any employee questions. Employees need to know exactly how they will enroll, where to enroll and where they can find guidance. Employers should consider reaching out to employees to determine what kind of enrollment process will work best for them. However, it should be clear that these suggestions must fit in with larger workplace operations. For instance, in-person meetings may not be an option.
Ways Employers Can Prepare
Open enrollment isn’t always a clear-cut process. Something that’s successful for one organization won’t necessarily work for another. Employers should review the following strategies and consider how similar initiatives might improve their own open enrollment efforts:
- Confer with management about any operational restrictions that may influence open enrollment (e.g., if in-person staff is limited within the workplace, in-person enrollment is likely not an option).
- Meet with stakeholders to solidify what the enrollment process will look like, including whether it will be entirely virtual, in-person with social distancing or some other combination of strategies.
- Debrief managers early in the enrollment process, and encourage them to regularly communicate with employees about the upcoming open enrollment.
- Inform all stakeholders (anyone whom an employee may contact with open enrollment questions) about the enrollment process. They should know where to find the answers to any topic.
- Communicate to employees about open enrollment through multiple channels. Consider using videos, webinars, mail-home postcards, PDFs and other materials to ensure employees have all the information they need.