The Open Enrollment Period (OEP) can seem overwhelming and confusing and rightly so – with a huge range of health insurance plans available and only six weeks of OEP from November to figure it out, benefits managers will have to decide on the best way forward for their company: Renew the current mutual or choose a new one? Which plan will best suit our business? And where do I start?
Here are five things you can do now to ensure a smooth process during OEP so you don’t feel rushed:
1. Choose an unbiased broker: When looking for a broker to help you choose a health plan, it’s important that you work with someone unrelated to a certain health insurance plan so that you get unbiased options. An independent broker will provide you with a variety of health insurance plans to review and also help you get the most out of your plan.
The second thing you want to look for is a broker that is up to date on new health plans. Some of today’s most modern health plans were created to provide employers and employees with the benefits that were traditionally only available to big companies with big pockets. Many things have changed in recent years. Websites such as Nava Benefits are a great resource with an unbiased overview of modern benefits for employers.
2. Ask the right questions: When choosing your broker, here are some important questions to ask yourself:
- Are you paid on fees or commission? Are there any separate fees that could be added?
- What services do you offer? For example, do you explain the health plan to employees once a plan is chosen?
- How do you help during the year when questions arise?
- How will you streamline the registration process?
- What health insurance plans can you recommend to cover chronic health conditions?
- Are there health plans that include advanced primary care?
- Is there a health plan where employees don’t have to worry about a doctor being in or out of the network?
3. Cast a wide net: Once you’ve chosen your broker and have health plans to consider, it’s important to take the time to research them and weigh the pros and cons of each. While it might be tempting to pick the first health plan that seems right for your business, you might be missing out on an option that could end up saving your employees time and money in the long run. Be sure to review the entire plan and costs, including deductibles, monthly payments and tax implications. A deeper dive to better understand the hospitals, doctors, and health facilities that are part of each plan will ensure a complete understanding of each health plan.
4. Look for savings on overhead and disbursements: A good health plan will offer great benefits, quality doctors, and affordable copayments. Additionally, the plan should be available to your business at an affordable price – ideally, even helping to lower your costs, while increasing the health benefits. Some health plans will even do price and provider comparisons for your employees, saving them hours of time and thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs while still getting quality care.
5. Know what’s on the market: Although there are many types of health care plans, the most common is the traditional health care plan. In this model, costs are split between co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles. Also included in these plans are intra and out-of-network, individual or family deductibles and plan types (PPO/HMO).
As mentioned earlier, there are also newer and more innovative health plans that allow employees to “shop” for a procedure in advance and the ability to select a doctor of choice and out-of-pocket expenses – all at advance, so there are no surprise medical costs. With these types of plans, there are no deductibles or coinsurance, only “dynamic copays” that change based on the quality of the doctor and the cost of the procedure. Often the highest quality providers also have the lowest member fees.
In the end, taking the time to find a good broker and then research potential health plans will have a huge payoff – after all, health insurance plans are usually the second biggest expense outside of payroll. employees, so start early and be thorough.
Ross Klosterman is co-founder and CEO of Health Poppins.