Open Enrollment Tag

Health benefits costs are almost certainly going to rise in 2021. They’ve been trending upward for years—over 50% in the last decade, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation— and the current state of economic uncertainty over COVID-19 won’t slow things down.

Realistically, after enduring months of business closures and managing exhausted workforces, many employers will be lucky to maintain uninterrupted operations. That’s why it’s critical for employers to think about reducing health costs right now—figure out cost-effective benefits first so money can be shuffled as needed later. Having a solid plan going into 2021 will better position organizations facing limited budgets.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wage on, its effects on benefits planning for next year are being felt—especially as open enrollment season approaches.

According to Mercer's Global Survey #5, 20% of employers surveyed said updating benefits programs to better meet employee needs was an HR area in which companies are seeing an increased need for support. In addition to considering plan design changes, employers are having to evaluate and adjust their benefits packages for 2021. Some of the most common changes being made for the 2021 enrollment season are outlined in this article.

Open enrollment following the COVID-19 pandemic will be unlike any other in recent memory.

Many organizations are still trying to recover from extended closures and maintain safe working environments—open enrollment is the last thing on their minds. Yet, procrastinating on enrollment planning can actually cause more issues than it solves. This article explains what employers can expect this enrollment period and how to prepare.

Open enrollment fairs are a great way for employers and benefits providers to help employees understand and enroll in the benefits programs that meet their needs.

These fairs are typically done in person, and they allow employees to learn about available benefits and discuss offerings with providers. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic may be changing what employees need for benefits, the format of open enrollment events should change, too. With open enrollment season around the corner and many organizations extending work-from-home policies, a virtual open enrollment fair may be necessary. This article explores benefits and best practices for organizations moving their open enrollment events online.

To prepare for open enrollment, group health plan sponsors should be aware of the legal changes affecting the design and administration of their plans for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2021. Employers should review their plan documents to confirm that they include these required changes.

In addition, any changes to a health plan’s benefits for the 2021 plan year should be communicated to plan participants through an updated summary plan description (SPD) or a summary of material modifications (SMM). Health plan sponsors should also confirm that their open enrollment materials contain certain required participant notices, when applicable—for example, the summary of benefits and coverage (SBC). There are also some participant notices that must be provided annually or upon initial enrollment. To minimize costs and streamline administration, employers should consider including these notices in their open enrollment materials.