Open Enrollment Communication in 2013 Will Be a Rodeo

by Frank Roche on April 9, 2013

in Benefits, Communication

Hold onto your hat, this one’s gonna get bumpy.

Your open enrollment communication for 2013 and 2014 is going to be like nothing your employees have ever seen. They’ll get ads for healthcare plans saying, “Pick me.” They’ll get official-looking papers with government seals talking about insurance exchanges. And they’ll get your open enrollment materials.

Your employees will feel like they’re bull riding at the rodeo, just holding on for dear life. Rita Pyrillis, a senior writer at Workforce, puts it this way:

If employers find that explaining benefits to their employees is challenging now, then they should brace themselves for fall enrollment when workers are expected to receive an avalanche of marketing materials from insurers, health insurance exchanges and government agencies in anticipation of health care reform, experts say.

To paraphrase that old Buick ad: This isn’t your father’s open enrollment.

In your dad’s day, he just got “insurance.” You know, that good old indemnity insurance back in the day when you could go to an emergency room for a hangnail and not have to pay a penny? You still have employees who remember those days.

And you have employees who have heard lots about PPOs, HMOs, HDHPs, and all their variants. On top of that, they have to consider smoking cessation, their BMI, and whether they want to turn over their medical checkup results to get a few hundred bucks.

It’s all so CONFUSING. Now comes the rodeo.

If you don’t want your employees to get bucked off you’d better be thinking long and hard about how to communicate your open enrollment this year. You need to give your employees the decision tools they need to take the ride. No matter what, this year’s open enrollment won’t be easy. But the biggest mistake would be to think, “Ah, this is just like last year, only our employees will get a few more brochures.”

Ever been around someone who’s Medicare eligible right around their open enrollment? Ever explained the “donut hole”? Or what Part D is? And then have them ask you, “Well, what do I choose?” This year’s open enrollment will be like that…only with 100 million employees.

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