Guiding employees through online enrollment

Although online enrollment is common among most employers, this year could provide another set of challenges because of new regulations and trends, and organizations should start to prepare now to guide employees through the process successfully .

One of the biggest challenges comes fromthe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requiring employers to provide a summary of benefits and coverage to all employees, says Craig Rosenberg, national practice leader for health and welfare benefits administration of Aon Hewitt, a human capital consulting firm in Chicago. The mandated summary of benefits and coverage must follow specific guidelines that include font size, page number and layout requirements, and this new rule must be implemented for all plans the begin their annual enrollment after Sept. 23. This doesn’t leave employers with much time, especially given the regulation’s strict standards and confusion that often comes with new requirements.

“It’s going to be a mad scramble to get these in place,” Rosenberg says. “HR departments are really going to have to closely with their health plans to gather all the required data and get it into the required format that follows the specific rules.”

Mobile devices are becoming a growing vehicle of online enrollment, and employers are beginning to learn how to implement this type of application, Rosenberg says. Although mobile devices aren’t being used to replace traditional online enrollment, they are being implemented as a complement. Some users prefer the experience at the PC while others like the convenience of having portable access to their plans. To ensure security, these programs still require usernames and passwords, and no information in stored on the actual mobile device.

“When we think about where the Web use is going and how people over time are going to continue to access the Web, we’d say the mobile device is going to become more and more prevalent for the on-the-go person who wants access anytime, anywhere,” Rosenberg says.

When designing a robust online enrollment system, it's important to include tools that help employees make the best plan decisions for their individual situations, Rosenberg says. These can include the ability to locate doctors within the network as well as cost analysis tools. Cost analysis tools are especially important because they help employees see the whole picture when it comes to their health care.

“At the end of the day, you need tools that help you pick the plan that’s best for your health care needs and understand the true costs,” Rosenberg says. “Employees need the ability to understand the coverage the plan provides and what’s changing from one year to the next. Not only should employees be able to consider the cost to purchase the plan but they should also be able to consider the cost to actually use the plan. Sometimes the plan that is cheapest for you to buy might not be the best plan for you because of your health care needs, so tools that help you understand the true costs of that plan are really important.”

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