Benefits Administration Technology
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KISHA MOLIERE: Good morning, and welcome to COVID Conversations, brought to you by the Ben Admin and Technology Practice of McGriff Insurance Services. I'm Kisha Moliere, a Ben Admin Technology Consultant with McGriff. And also with me today is Kristin Shirley, the practice leader.
As we are all aware, the novel Coronavirus has really changed the landscape for a lot of employers due to social distancing policies enacted across the country, leading to a sudden shift to a telecommuting workforce. So we wanted to take a couple of minutes to point out a few items employers may not be thinking about yet with respect to the impact of COVID-19 around this year's open enrollment.
So, Kristin, it appears that the days of in-person benefit meetings may be a thing of the past, or at least on pause for a while. What is one of the first things you think employers need to consider due to so many employees now being remote?
KRISTIN SHIRLEY: Thanks, Kisha. Yeah, I think collecting contact information for employees will be imperative right now, since many may be telecommuting and using their personal equipment, like their cell phones, their email, instead of really using company resources. And I also think it's important that employers be asking themselves if they've developed a strategy to gather this employee contact them year round and collect it periodically. That way, they have it in situations like this.
And since all employees have to elect benefits, one way to make sure that you update and have your employees update their contact information is requiring the contact information page in their Ben Admin system or their HRMS system. That way, employees will be forced to enter that contact information before they actually enroll in their benefits.
KISHA MOLIERE: Good deal.
KRISTIN SHIRLEY: And Kisha, just kind of based upon your experience, what are some key benefits communication tips that you can provide to set employers up for success during this open enrollment?
KISHA MOLIERE: So yeah, if an employer was accustomed to printing and handing out benefit booklets in the break room during group benefit meetings and then collecting paper enrollment forms after one-on-one enrollment sessions, this year is probably going to be a little different. They'll need to consider some of the following alternatives. First, printing and mailing, which is always an option, but may be cost prohibitive for some, especially during this economic tilt. So I'd recommend uploading their benefit booklets to their company internet or their website.
And if they have a Ben Admin enrollment site, actually uploading the benefit booklet there would be a less costly alternative, as well. Which brings us to the following questions—does your benefit administration software allow for posting of these types of documents? And if it does, does it allow for different versions to be posted for different employee populations, since benefits, costs, and/or eligibility may be different for employees at various locations, classes, et cetera?
Then, the next question you may want to ask is, does your Ben Admin system allow for embedded videos in the enrollment platform? And if so, consider yourself or your broker recording open enrollment meetings and posting them within the actual enrollment site. Another option, of course, would be email. If you've been diligent with collecting emails from your employees, this is a very inexpensive way to send out benefits communications.
And another question you want to ask, again, is, does your Ben Admin or HRMS platform allow you to send targeted communications to subsets of employees? And then, very important in this time, with all of the social distancing, would be video conferencing, such as WebEx, Skype, and GoToMeeting. And some vendors in that space are even offering discounted or no-cost access to their platforms right now, so it's definitely something employers need to look into.
And then, lastly, I would say decision support. If you're going to be making major changes in health insurance benefits this year, consider utilizing a decision support tool during your enrollment process to assist employees in making their benefit decisions. So, Kristen, once employees have received their benefit information, what are some challenges and solutions around actually processing employee elections?
KRISTIN SHIRLEY: Well, since we all can pretty much accept the fact that paper and face-to-face open enrollment is very much a thing of the past, here's a couple of alternatives that you can consider. First up, employers should consider, or they could, do online enrollment fee via Ben Admin platforms with an employee self-service feature, meaning the employee goes in and actually makes their elections using that system's device.
The other thing they could do is that they may want to consider employee enrollments via Ben Admins mobile device. Again, not all Ben Admins platforms are going to have a mobile device. So it's important that they start asking these questions now to find out if theirs does have one that would make that option available.
And then I think the third thing that employers should start asking is that their broker or Ben Admin or HRMS vendors, they should start asking about call centers. This could be a great way to educate employees, especially if a group has plans to change plan offerings this year, and, at the same time, provide that human interaction and that personal touch that we're all so much craving right now.
They should also be asking the brokers about what technology they can provide to assist with those open enrollments. And most importantly, they should start asking these questions, again, now. Any of these proposed alternatives will take time, so if they start planning and start asking and start lining things up now, it will make for a much smoother open enrollment.
KISHA MOLIERE: Agreed.
KRISTIN SHIRLEY: So that about wraps up this edition of the COVID Conversations. So thank you for your time. Be on the lookout for our next installment, and until then, stay healthy.
KISHA MOLIERE: Bye, everyone.
KRISTIN SHIRLEY: Bye.
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