There are advantages to active enrollment, but first understand what the process entails
This is the first article in a series on meeting open enrollment challenges. Below, we examine the pros and cons of requiring employees to proactively elect to enroll in health and other benefit plans for the coming year (active enrollment) versus allowing their current benefit selections to automatically roll over unless they elect to change them (passive enrollment).
The consensus view among employee benefit advisors is that active open enrollment is the superior way to prod employees to make appropriate decisions about the benefits that will best suit their own—and their families'—needs. Active enrollment, however, requires that HR benefit managers engage directly with employees to ensure that no one inadvertently misses their opportunity to elect coverage for the new year.
If employees fail to make their selections before the end of the open enrollment period, they'll have to wait until the following year's open enrollment to sign up for benefits—unless they experience a qualifying life event such as getting married or divorced, having a baby, or a spouse losing his or her job. The possibility of inattentive employees being left without health and other benefits—and the outcry from those who might find themselves in this predicament—keeps most employers on the passive enrollment track.
A 2011 study found that 71 percent of U.S. employers opted for passive enrollment.
"The fear is that if your employees don't sign up, they'll lose their coverage," said Kim Buckey, vice president of compliance communications at Birmingham, Ala.-based DirectPath, an employee engagement and health care compliance firm. To make certain that doesn't happen, she said, HR professionals should launch an effective communications campaign and offer one-on-one personal support throughout the enrollment process to ensure that no employee gets left behind.
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