Wrestling with the implications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could make the upcoming open enrollment period one of the most challenging in memory. Mercer, a human resources and benefits company in New York City, encourages companies to approach the fall season with a plan.


Mercer's proposed checklist includes:

  • Consider offering a consumer-driven health plan. The momentum behind this type of plan continues to grow, with 39 percent of large of large employers offering one last year and 64 percent expected to do so within two years.
  • Communicate early and often to the newly eligible. Mercer's research indicates that one-third of employers still need to make changes to comply with the requirement to extend coverage to all employees working 30 or more hours per week. Start communicating right away with newly eligible employees about who is eligible, why they are eligible, how eligibility was determined, what this means and what they have to now consider. Information should also be delivered to those who still remain ineligible and the options these employees may have in the public exchange arena.
  • Make voluntary benefits a big part of the message. Voluntary benefits can deliver significant value to employees and are an important element of a thoughtfully designed benefits program. They can also be used to overcome misperceptions and confusion around other benefit offerings. These offerings also can assist employees who remain ineligible for the employer-sponsored medical plan.
  • Use open enrollment as an opportunity to reinforce wellness campaigns. This is particularly important if any perceived compliance penalties are going to be introduced next year, such as increased premiums for those who do not participate in health screenings.
  • Deploy decision support and mobile technology to support the accountability theme. Participants are being asked like never before to take accountability for their health benefit decisions and cost outlays. For example, some employers are providing digital "wallet cards" for smart phones and other devices that contain benefit information and contacts needed at the point of service or anywhere else a participant needs this information and/or advice.

Also read: Should we move open enrollment season?

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