For most brokers, preparing for open enrollment starts early. Whether your client is doing an in-office open enrollment or using a virtual method, brokers need to ensure your clients are equipped for the process by being fully prepped on the latest benefit trends, barriers your clients are facing, and which benefits are most important to them during the open enrollment period.
Getting a jump on these crucial tasks means you’ll be better equipped to consult your clients on their priorities and financial situations. To help you out, this article will cover how open enrollment works, why early preparation is important, and post-open enrollment responsibilities.
How open enrollment works
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), open enrollment is the dedicated period for Americans to enroll, renew, or change their health coverage on the individual market. Typically, this enrollment period applies to a company's health, disability, life, vision, and dental plan, but it can also apply to other employee benefits.
While the exact dates vary depending on your state, the open enrollment period generally starts at the beginning of November and ends in mid-December for coverage effective January 1 of the following year. However, some states allow residents to enroll in health coverage until January or February.
A special enrollment period can also occur on a case-by-case basis. If a person has a qualifying life event that triggers a special enrollment period, such as getting married or having a baby, they can enroll or change their health plan outside the standard open enrollment period.
To make it easy, the health insurance enrollment deadlines are as follows:
- Open enrollment period
- Federal marketplace: The enrollment window typically runs from November 1 - December 15.
- State exchanges: States are free to set their own deadline, as long as their period doesn’t end before December 15.
- Special enrollment period
- Generally speaking, a person will have 60 days to enroll in a new health plan through the federal or state marketplace following their qualifying life event.
Open enrollment is an excellent time for your clients to start thinking about their employer-sponsored benefits to ensure they’re offering a benefits package that will help recruit and retain talent. Reviewing their benefits and making small annual changes can be vital to a company’s success.
Why early preparation for open enrollment is important
As a broker, open enrollment is about effectively communicating with and educating your clients on their health insurance coverage and other employee benefit options to create the best package for their employees. Therefore, it’s important to ensure you are prepared well before November 1.
Employee benefits have changed significantly over the past few years. By preparing early, you can give your clients enough time to review all their options and make a decision based on data and specific business needs instead of a decision based on gut reactions.
Taking a personalized approach to your client’s benefits needs can lead to more benefit renewals, reduced benefit costs, and improved overall satisfaction. For your client’s employees, a customized benefit design allows them to choose the best benefits for their household income, review a variety of health insurance options, and have a smoother enrollment application period.
By understanding those needs early on, you’ll be better equipped to recommend solutions to your clients and answer any questions they may have.
Simply put, brokers who get a jump start on open enrollment can better serve their clients by reducing their frustrations and confusion during the application process, helping them understand group and individual health plan changes, and providing better support.
Tips to help you prepare for open enrollment
To help you get organized, the following list contains tasks and tips to help you stay on track and prepare for your client’s open enrollment:
- Complete your Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) certification.
- This certification is required to sell health coverage through the Marketplace during open enrollment.
- Familiarize yourself with changes in the health insurance industry, like health reform legislation, health insurance rates, and current plan offerings.
- You should also research the current benefits employees want most, such as wellness services, additional medical care options, family planning assistance, and mental health benefits.
- Schedule check-in meetings with your clients and remind them of important dates.
- Prepare forms, resources, and other materials.
- This includes set-up documents, employee acknowledgment-of-benefits forms, any online application, and other authorization forms to make the enrollment process run smoothly.
- Start researching and pulling quotes so your clients can review their options early.
Post-open enrollment tasks
After open enrollment season ends, you still have certain responsibilities to your clients before you can wrap up the season.
First, you should reach out to your clients to ensure they have all the necessary resources. Those resources should include benefit plan details, vendor contact information, payroll deduction instructions, and other relevant information.
You should also remind them that you have year-round availability to answer any questions and assist with compliance, tax, and reporting concerns.
Once your clients are all set, you should review what went well this open enrollment season and determine what can be improved for the following year. Conduct an audit of the materials you used this year. From there, you can see what can be reused next year and what will need to be updated.
In the health insurance industry, it’s never too early to start planning for open enrollment. Securing the right kind of benefits for your clients takes time and research, and you don’t want to be left feeling like you’re racing against the clock when helping your clients make crucial decisions for their business.
To succeed, health insurance brokers must have the proper tools in place to assist clients quickly and efficiently, but with a personal touch. With proper preparation and organization, you can get your clients through open enrollment season with fewer hassle and delays.