It’s Open Enrollment Time Again! Prepare Your Clients to Make Good Choices About Benefits

Ellen Lichtenstein

Open enrollment is an important time for employers and employees, which means it’s an important time for anyone who sells benefit policies, including insurance agents, carriers, brokers, and dually licensed broker-dealers. While open enrollment normally starts for employees in the fall, we know insurance professionals have been putting in the work for at least a month or two before anyone sees it. 

As we approach open enrollment season, here are some reminders and tips to help insurance professionals focus on providing the best service and experience to clients and the end-insureds (usually employees). 

Sidenote: If you’re looking for more information on Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment, check this out. 

What is a benefits open enrollment period?

An open enrollment period, regardless of when it happens, is a critical time for employers and employees to review their benefits packages and make sure they’re getting the best coverage to meet their needs. 

Most often, we refer to “open enrollment” to mean the annual open enrollment period available to anyone on an employer-sponsored or healthcare marketplace plan. There are, however, special enrollment periods (SEPs) for new hires choosing benefits for the first time and people who experience a qualifying life event (QLE) that makes them eligible for adding, dropping, or changing benefit plans. These aren’t “open enrollment” periods, strictly speaking, because they’re prompted by a triggering event and aren’t available to everyone “just ‘cause.” 

Annual open enrollment, on the other hand, is! You don’t have to have gotten married or divorced, had a baby, or any other QLE to change your benefits up at open enrollment. This makes it an opportunity for insurance carriers, agents, and brokers to grow their book of business and revenue if they do it right. 

Understanding the benefits of open enrollment

Open enrollment benefits for the insured

For anyone enrolled in a health insurance plan (including medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, etc.) the benefit of an open enrollment period is the option to add and remove dependents, make changes to plan elections, change the amount of insurance chosen, and most other changes that can’t be made throughout the year without a QLE. 

It also may be a time when an insured can choose more or better insurance coverage without having to go through underwriting. Life insurance, for example, usually requires a medical review, questions, or exam to increase coverage because insurers have found people tend to increase their coverage when they know they’re soon going to need it! At open enrollment, however, everyone has the same window of opportunity to increase coverage without having to prove their health status – usually up to a certain benefit dollar amount, at least. 

Open enrollment benefits for insurance professionals

For those who work in insurance, open enrollment is also a hectic and exciting time with benefits for those who do it right. Insurance agents, carriers, and brokers can use the open enrollment opportunity to: 

  • Provide more value to their clients and the clients’ employees by developing unique ways to save money or provide greater benefits
  • Get face-to-face time with clients and their employees to provide expert guidance
  • Build relationships with clients and insureds to increase positive sentiment that might help them sell more policies in the future

Basically, the open enrollment period is a key time for insurance agents and carriers to increase their business because it opens the door for people to add more dependents to their coverage, purchase more products, or upgrade their existing products. While most consumers aren’t jumping for joy at the thought of talking to their insurance agent or carrier, open enrollment provides a reason for insurance professionals to check in and reach out at the time when consumers are actively thinking about their health and wellness insurance needs. 

How being technologically enabled helps insurance agents and carriers at open enrollment 

The days of filling out benefit elections on a paper form are over; or at least they should be! If your clients are employers that provide benefits to their employees, then you need to be concerned about those employees’ user experience. Answering questions on paper (and doing it over and over for each type of insurance plan) isn’t going to score you any points. 

Instead, make sure clients’ employees are equipped with a way to elect benefits and enroll in a modern, digital way. This can be via the employer’s own HR tech or through an enrollment platform provided as a service by insurance carriers, agencies, or brokerages. Regardless of how you get there, if your organization isn’t equipped to make benefit enrollment easy and convenient, people are going to complain about it and you might lose business to a company that is. 

On top of being concerned about the end insureds’ user experience, carriers, agencies, and others need to consider your own internal staff’s tolerance for manual and tedious labor. And on top of that, the same goes for the staff at any of your distribution channel partners – from the largest carriers to solo agents to the HR or people team at your clients’ companies. 

Benefits open enrollment isn’t the only place your insurtech stack matters

If you’re nodding your head in agreement that asking people to spend hours of their day figuring out their benefit options and selecting them is a dated practice, consider where else in the business you might be asking people to do similar. 

For insurance carriers, agencies, MGAs, MGUs, brokerage firms, and any other player in the complex insurance distribution channel, producer license compliance might be one of those spots. For more tips on a successful and technologically enabled open enrollment season, read our blog on open enrollment best practices. To see how AgentSync can take the tedium out of producer onboarding, licensing, appointments, renewals, and terminations, contact one of our experts for a demo today.

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