It’s that time of the year that presents headaches for HR professionals and admin staff—open enrollment. But your company’s benefits administration doesn’t have to resemble a Halloween Fright Night. Here are five best practices to streamline your employees’ enrollment period and leave you with a basket of sweet candy:
1. Create a realistic schedule for open enrollment by beginning with the end in mind.
Your open enrollment period should end no later than 30 days prior to the end of your plan year or renewal date. Once you determine the ending date of open enrollment, back up from there to schedule open enrollment meetings, print forms or materials, distribute or mail open enrollment packets, etc.
2. Collect all required information for each plan participant (employee or dependent).
This may include information for each plan participant such as:
- Last Name, First Name and Middle Initial (exactly as provided in previous enrollments)
- Social Security Number (unique and accurate identifying information for each dependent)
- Date of Birth (unique and accurate identifying information for each dependent)
- Hire Date (if an employee)
- Coverage Effective Date
- Product Coverage (Medical, Dental, Flex)
- Date of Termination, if applicable, and Reason for Term
(especially needed for COBRA)
- E-mail address (useful to promote programs and services available through benefits plan)
3. Remind employees that “good data in equals good data out.”
Stress the importance of completing all fields on any enrollment or waiver forms. It’s in every plan participant’s best interest to review and verify new and existing data during open enrollment since it directly affects coverage for the upcoming plan year. Decisions regarding participants’ eligibility and coverage under the health plan—as well as that of their dependents—are made based on the information provided during open enrollment.
4. Educate employees about the “not-so-flexible” guidelines of flexible spending accounts (FSAs), if available through your plan.
In addition to the advantages of flexible spending accounts, make sure your employees also know about the guidelines for FSAs. The most important thing for employees to remember is that FSAs are “use it or lose it” accounts. Contributions made to an FSA during a calendar year can be used only for eligible expenses incurred during the same year—unless your plan provides for either a grace period or a carryover. If your plan doesn’t provide for a carryover, employees need to be aware that any money remaining in an FSA account after the claim filing period at the end of the year (and after the grace period, if applicable) is forfeited in accordance with IRS regulations.
5. If your employees have flex debit cards, remind them to save all receipts for purchases made with the card.
Since a flex debit card deducts payment for an eligible health care expense directly from an FSA account, employees may think that saving health care receipts is unnecessary. Some claims for reimbursement, however, may require substantiation. Encourage employees to save all receipts for flex debit card purchases in case they receive a substantiation request or their tax return is audited by the IRS. Employees should hold on to their cards even if the allocated FSA total amount has already been used.
Our next blog will contain five more tips to plan and prepare for open enrollment like a pro. Subscribe to our blog to receive it automatically!
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