Tips for preparing and having group employee benefit meetingsArticle added by Philip Eide on April 8, 2013
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Philip Eide

Shaker Heights, OH

Joined: December 12, 2010

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If group meetings are possible, the following tips should assist in the planning, preparing, scheduling, holding and following up on the meetings.

The process of educating and communicating with employees about the value of the benefit choices provided by their employer and broker(s) prior to the enrollment period is never easy. This is when the employer and broker(s) must work together to make the benefit plan design and the plans, programs and/or services understandable and acceptable to the employees and their families. When possible, effective group meetings — including the preparation before and the follow-up after — can determine several outcomes:
  • Success or failure of the plan design
  • Efficient use of HR, managers' and employees' time.
  • The efficiency of the enrollment process — one-on-one, Internet-based, call center-based, paper application distribution or a combination
  • Proper utilization of the employer's invested benefit dollars
  • Successful penetration and persistence for the carriers and providers of plans, programs and services
  • Conveying important messages to reduce health care and insurance costs
  • Reduction in the number of changes following the enrollment
  • Proper utilization of the employees' and their families' invested benefit dollars
  • Compliance with regulations
  • Employee satisfaction and motivation
  • The ability to retain and hire new employees
If group meetings are possible, the following tips should assist in the planning, preparing, scheduling, holding and following-up on the meetings. Note: The group meetings should be mandatory to avoid misunderstanding claims of discrimination.

Prior communications

1. Communication with employees should be a year long activity. Employees' utilization of the health care system, as well as the benefit plans, happens on a day-to-day basis. Employees and their families can become better consumers when armed with information. There are an incredible number of free sources of cost-saving information on the internet.

2. Use managers as the conduit. At least 45 days prior to the group meetings, begin introducing the managers to the plan design and the programs, plans and services to be offered to the employees. Make sure managers understand the timing of the group meetings, the method of enrollment, the timing of the enrollment period and the importance of employee participation. Coach managers to begin discussing the plans, programs and services that will be offered following the distribution of employee benefit packages.

3. Distribute employee benefit packages. Ten business days prior to the group meeting(s), distribute benefit packages to all eligible employees. Packages should contain:
  • Language-specific materials (as available and affordable)
  • Introductory letter from the management (owner, president, CFO, HR, etc.)
  • Dates and times for the group meetings, as specific to each employee as possible
  • Explain and introduce for the enrollment process, including family involvement (if possible), method(s) for enrolling, timing of the enrollment, timing of the first deductions, when the plans will take effect, etc.
  • Explanation of the plan design and cost-sharing (if applicable)
  • Brochures from each of the carriers and providers of plans, programs and/or services
  • Pricing sheet for each plan, program and/or service — individual and family (if appropriate)
  • Explanation of the cost-sharing and who is responsible for paying for various plans, programs and/or services. In the case of defined contribution (DC) plans, HRAs, HSAs, reimbursement accounts, etc., be specific with contributions and dollar limits.
  • Check list of the plans, programs and/or services in which they, or their family members, have an interest. These should be kept with the employees to be used during the group meetings and enrollment period to help focus on the employee's and their family's needs.
  • Receipt of package with a convenient method for collection. The receipts should be tracked to verify all eligible rmployees received the information and to avoid claims of discrimination.
4. Use reminder notices. Utilizing all media available, reminder notices should be posted about the pending group meetings. Department managers should post notices several days prior the meetings. The employees should be encouraged to bring the benefit packages they were provided with note pads and pens for taking notes.

The employee benefits group meetings should be a special event. The employer, broker, carriers and providers of plans, and the employees all have time and money involved. The overall goal should be to get the employers and employees the greatest return on their invested benefit dollars. Here are some helpful tips:
  • Meetings should be mandatory.
  • The meetings should be held in a comfortable setting during the employees' working hours , not during a break or meal time.
  • Accommodations should be made for employees on vacation or leave. For those employees in remote areas or unable to attend meetings, an alternative communication process should be established that provides comparable information.
  • Employees should be provided note paper and pens/pencils for taking notes.
  • Employees' questions should be limited to the end of the meetings.
  • The owner, executive or HR manager should moderate the meeting.
  • The CFO/finance person should address the employees about the plan design and reasons for cost sharing, consumer-driven plans, etc. (if applicable).
  • The type of enrollment, whether one-on-one, Internet-based, call center, paper or a combination, should be explained to the employees.
  • The dates and times for the enrollment should be explained.
  • The final date of submission of the employees' and their families' benefit choice selections and changes should be made clear to the employees with reminders posted throughout the workplace.
  • Each carrier/provider of a plan, program and/or service should be permitted a brief time to highlight (not sell) their plan, program and/or service. This may not be possible with a large menu of benefits.
  • Additional benefit packages and check lists should be provided to each employee in addition to the one provided previously, if needed.
  • Request that employees review their benefit packages and complete the check list indicating their and their family members' interest in specific plans, programs and/or services in preparation for the enrollment.
  • Ask for the employees' help in having a good enrollment and for their assistance in creating the best possible benefit plan.
  • A brief question and answer period should be held following the meeting. Employees should be encouraged to write down their questions to be answered in a memorandum, newsletter or other form of media.
  • The meeting should last no more than one hour, if possible.
  • Follow up on the group meetings in preparation of the enrollment.
  • Thank all managers for their assistance and remind them of their responsibilities toward a successful enrollment.
  • Thank all employees for attending the group meetings and solicit their input.
  • Get back to all questions that employees submitted at or after the group meetings.
  • Reach out to employees with reminders about the dates and procedures for enrollment.
When group meetings focused on the employee benefits are feasible and well-planned, they can be extremely effective in educating the employees and their families about the plan design and the plans, programs and/or services made available to them. The group meetings can also assist in building employee morale, loyalty and productivity. A benefit plan that is explained well can assist with retaining employees and in attracting new hires.
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