Open enrollment for 2021 is 12 to 14 weeks away for most companies (at the time of this writing). This year could prove more challenging than past years thanks to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Brokers could have their plates full. As in most circumstances of this type, preparation is key.
Dallas-based BenefitMall reminds brokers to not wait until October to start making plans for 2021 open enrollment. There is plenty of work to be done now. The more brokers do in preparation for the start of open enrollment, the better prepared they will be to meet client needs.
To that end, BenefitMall has a few suggestions for brokers:
Start Analyzing Plans Now
A lot of what will be offered by insurance carriers for next year is in flux at the current time. However, brokers should start analyzing plans now. Most carriers hopefully have at least a basic framework in place for next year’s offerings. Knowing the basics can help brokers better understand where their plans are going in the future.
Data and analytics are an important part of analyzing benefits plans too. They will ultimately help both brokers and their clients make better decisions when open enrollment actually begins. Brokers should make a point of utilizing data and analytics to protect the financial viability of their clients’ plans.
Incorporate Technology Now
It might be that a large percentage of America’s workforce will not return to the office after having worked at home for so long. From an employee benefits standpoint, this could be problematic if no online open enrollment system exists. So what should brokers do? They should prepare by incorporating technology now.
Companies like BenefitMall are gradually introducing fully online systems that facilitate the needs of both broker and client. One-stop benefits portals can offer a virtual open enrollment platform that allows employees to review benefit plans, make their selections, and sign up online. This facilitates remote open enrollment to accommodate those employees continuing to work from home.
As a side note, this sort of technology makes life easier for brokers as well. A complete online solution that connects brokers to their clients and carriers can streamline everything from open enrollment to paying bills.
Investigate Potential Compliance Issues
Another thing that brokers have to consider heading into next year is legal compliance. For example, the employer mandate included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still in force. Employers must still offer their employees qualified health insurance plans that meet ACA requirements.
In addition, there may be new compliance issues for 2021, issues relating to coronavirus. For example, there is already talk in Washington of forcing employee health insurance plans to cover the full cost of coronavirus testing regardless of whether or not a doctor orders such testing.
It would be no surprise to see other mandates put in place as a result of coronavirus. Each and every mandate represents a new compliance issue brokers and their clients have to worry about. Thus, brokers can help themselves by beginning to investigate compliance issues well in advance of open enrollment.
A New Benefit Landscape
Open enrollment for 2021 is bound to look at least somewhat different thanks to the many changes thrust upon us by coronavirus. How different it actually looks remains to be seen. Yet one thing is certain: brokers cannot afford to wait until October to start getting ready. This year, more than ever before, months of preparation are required.
Brokers would do well to start the preparations now. The more time they have to prepare, the more prepared they should end up being.