How to Survive Benefit Renewal Season
This time of year can be very stressful for anyone in your organization dealing with your benefits renewal. January 1st is a very prevalent date for benefit plan renewals, and the 4th quarter is also a very busy time of year for organizations. Having to decide on plan designs that will fit your budget, having to organize an employee communications campaign, set up HRIS systems, conduct open enrollment meetings, and have carriers issue ID cards (all before the first of the year) can be very overwhelming. Here are some things you should be expecting from your benefits consultant to provide for a smooth renewal period:
- Plan throughout the year – Most organizations should be talking throughout the year about the strategy for their benefit plans and the budget numbers being set. Discussions around self-funding, level funding, reference based pricing, and plan designs can take place in the early part of the year. This should produce a clear path for what initiatives you will take on at renewal each year. Much of the ground work for those initiatives can be laid well in advance of the 4th quarter.
- Stay tuned – Know how your plan is running. By meeting and reviewing your plan experience and your renewal predictions with your benefits consultant throughout the year, the organization will be better prepared to adjust the renewal strategy in advance and provide key stakeholders in the organization with information on where the plan is likely to come in for budgeting purposes.
- Renewal Release Date – Understand when your renewal will be released from the insurance carrier and what your benefits consultant has requested of the carrier. While an extra month of claims can hurt or help your renewal, an extra month on the end of the process is not a luxury the plan calendar typically allows.
- Stick to the timeline – Your benefits consulting team should provide you a timeline of when you can expect to receive information, meet to discuss, and when final plan decisions on design and contributions are needed in order to have a smooth open enrollment (i.e.systems set up, meetings conducted, and open enrollment elections to be collected and submitted to the carrier). The closer you can stick to the timeline, the smoother your renewal season will go.
- Pre-planned Open Enrollment Communications and Meetings – Your benefits consultant should be able to turn the key on all employee communications right after the organization makes its final renewal decisions. Plan your meeting dates in advance and allow your benefits consulting team to take it from there. They can handle all communications and employee meetings. They can also field questions and do the heavy lifting for you.
Remember that your organization likely spends a large budget number on employee benefits. Retain your talent by helping your employees understand the value of those benefits and their total rewards package by having a well-planned Open Enrollment season!