Employers' Guide to Choosing Open Enrollment Dates
- Lauren Hargrave
- 4 min read
With all the preparation that goes into open enrollment, from benefits selection to employee education, the careful scheduling of open enrollment dates might get overlooked. Open enrollment doesn’t need to happen at the same time it did last year (and it might not be a good idea if it did). How should you choose your open enrollment dates? By taking into consideration all the other important dates.
This might sound like circular logic but a successful open enrollment requires that employees have enough time to choose their benefits and complete their paperwork, and employers have enough time to process said paperwork as well as correct any errors, prior to carrier deadlines. It also requires you take into consideration things that have nothing to do with health insurance like holidays and any other typical busy period for employees.
1. Consider provider details
The most important dates to be aware of when choosing your internal open enrollment period are the benefits providers’ deadlines. These are the dates by which all employees must be registered and enrolled in their chosen plans with each specific carrier. If employees aren’t enrolled by these dates, they could lose access to insurance and other benefits for the coming year unless they experience a qualified life event.
Each provider might have slightly different deadlines, so make sure you’re aware of them all. The carriers include all of your health insurance options, in addition to your dental plans, workplace retirement plans, FSAs, HSAs, life insurance, commuter, and lifestyle benefit accounts. Choose the earliest deadline as your benchmark, then work backward.
2. Give yourself enough time for processing and late submissions
So you’ve got your carrier deadlines, now you just need to schedule open enrollment for the two weeks prior, right? Not quite. You have to give your team enough time to process employee benefits selections and to correct errors, as well as accommodate any late submissions.
To determine the time you need to process enrollment, consider how long it took last year, whether or not your open enrollment is digital (online open enrollment is usually processed quicker than manual), and how many employees you’re serving.
Late submissions and errors are inevitable so take the above time estimate and add a little cushion on top of it. Remember the goal is to get as many employees enrolled in benefits as possible.
3. Work with marketplace dates
There are many reasons why employees might want to consider purchasing a health plan in the private marketplace. So aligning at least part of your open enrollment with that of the Federal marketplace would be helpful to your employees.
If you’re offering a stipend to pay for health insurance premiums in lieu of buying a group plan, it’s especially important that your open enrollment period aligns with the Federal marketplace so employees don’t miss out on coverage. Other reasons an employee might consider a private plan are:
- The plans you offer don’t meet ACA coverage or affordability standards.
- They want to retain the same network they’ve had historically for continuity of care (ex: staying with the same HMO).
- If they simply want a wider range of options to choose from.
4. Adjust during holiday seasons
If the fall holidays are typically heavy with employee travel and PTO days, or, if they’re typically busy periods in terms of employees’ workloads, you might want to schedule around the most affected time periods. If that’s not possible, consider lengthening your open enrollment period so employees have ample time to educate themselves, make their selections and complete the enrollment process.
5. Consider late and special enrollment periods
As long as you set your open enrollment period far enough ahead of your carrier deadlines, you should be able to accept late submissions from your employees. Another factor to consider is special enrollment. This occurs when an employee experiences a qualifying life event that makes them eligible to make a change in benefits. They can change the plan they’re on, buy a new one, add or subtract dependents and more.
Qualifying life events that will trigger a special enrollment period are:
- New employment (this applies to all new employees)
- Recently becoming eligible to receive benefits at the company (this would apply to employees whose tenure makes them newly eligible for benefits)
- Birth of a child
- An adult dependent child aging out of coverage
- Moving from a geographic coverage area. If an employee moves out of the geographic area covered by the health insurance or other carrier, this employee and their dependents are eligible to choose a new plan.
- Qualifying for Medicare
Get started with Lively
Lively is your partner during open enrollment and beyond. We offer unparalleled support to employers and employees alike and our easy-to-use dashboard makes plan management easy and dare we say, fun? If you’re interested in offering an HSA that’s low cost, popular with employees and allows participants to invest their contributions, reach out today.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.