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Online-Enrollment—More-Than-Just-Simplifying-Administration-Enrollment and reporting are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the features and functions of online enrollment platforms. Technology is playing a huge role in communicating benefits information to employees outside of the open enrollment period and enrollment platforms can really maximize your communications efforts, pushing out education to employees and helping to deliver a consistent message.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, employers are shifting to high deductible plans as a part of cost-saving strategies. These plans cover 25% of employees and still, most of them don’t truly understand how their plan works. The high deductible that goes along with these plans can seem daunting, but online enrollment platforms – with tools like defined contribution and interactive avatars – can lessen the blow that comes with introducing these plans and make it easier for employees to make smart decisions about their benefits.

Employee awareness and education is more necessary now than ever in the changing world of healthcare because employees must become better healthcare consumers. And employers need to give them the means to do so. It’s not just about an educational email blast a few times a year – an open line of communication is key. An employer needs to know who their employees are and how to reach them. All of them. Your benefits program is for your employees so let them drive your offerings and communication strategy.

Fortunately, you can use your online enrollment tool to accomplish these goals. A single sign on from other vendor websites provides a seamless experience so that all roads point toward your benefits portal. Awareness of, and access to, educational and wellness programs are supported by consistent email messaging and online content. You can even integrate social media into your platform and receive real-time feedback.

On the benefits administration side, employers are tapping into the other features of their enrollment platforms to streamline year-round tasks like adding new hires, handling qualified event changes, and automation that extends to all areas of routine HR tasks.

The tools and technology are there for you to use. With OE over, now is the time to focus on making that online enrollment tool work for you through the rest of the year. Your employees will thank you.

iphone-millennial-communications1As the baby boomers continue to move toward retirement, millennials are fast becoming the new majority in the workforce. As an employer, do you know how to speak their language? Millennials were born in the 1980s and 1990s, making them around 20 to 35 years old today – they are the first generation that doesn’t remember a world without computers.

While they are known for choosing job satisfaction over salary, that doesn’t mean benefits aren’t important to them. According to a recent survey, more than half said that benefits are an important factor in choosing a job and staying with a company.

When it comes to benefits information, the challenge for our clients has become how to provide the same tech-centric and customer-friendly user experience that millennials have come to expect as everyday consumers. Consider the company intranet – a rather simple manner of communicating with all employees – and how to bring it to the next level to reach millennials: send out an email or text message to mobile devices alerting employees when new information is added or updated. Effective communication like this involves creativity and revitalizing older strategies:

Make information available anytime, anywhere

Smartphones are the center of their universe. Don’t expect them to read a 40-page guide or visit 10 different vendors’ websites. Put everything they need to know on one mobile-friendly website with single sign on.

Speak to each individual, not the group

As consumers, millennials expect customized communication from the companies they do business with. Leverage employee data to deliver relevant, personalized messages.

Offer benefits they value

Health is a priority, so gym membership discounts are popular. Money is also a big concern since many of them have large student loans. To support them in managing their money, offer workshops on debt, budgeting, insurance and saving.

Don’t just talk…listen

Millennials want to be heard, so provide opportunities for two-way conversations such as surveys, feedback forums and private Facebook pages.

Encourage interaction

Incorporate social media, especially in wellness programs. Encourage friendly competition through contests that allow them to interact, motivate one another and share success stories.

Custom CommunicationsAlthough enrollment in Health Savings Accounts continues to surge, many consumers are still unsure about the benefits and features of these plans. As an employer, you can have a positive impact on your bottom line (and that of your employees) by raising awareness about your company’s HSA plan this open enrollment season.

The Growth of HSAs

In the past six years, enrollment in HSAs has more than tripled, with a 29 percent increase in both the number of accounts and the total amount of HSA assets in the last year alone. The primary reasons for this growth is two-fold: First, the pairing of a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with an HSA can create a significant cost savings for employers in the face of rising health care costs. This savings will also benefit employees, who frequently have a lower premium contribution under a HDHP.

Secondly, HSAs provide a significant tax advantage, as all contributions made to an HSA are tax exempt. As of 2013, employees were allowed to make contributions into their HSA in amounts up to $3,250 per year for an individual policy or $6,450 per year for a family policy. With no expiration date on when these funds can be used, this provides consumers with the ability to plan, save and pay for future medical costs – whether they’re incurred in two months or 20 years. Other factors contributing to the growth of HDHP/HSA plans include:

• An Improving Economy. While HSA contributions started to slump during the recent recession, employers have started increasing their HSA contributions over the last few years. This increase in contributions has encouraged employees to sign up for these plans and contribute themselves.

• The Affordable Care Act. With increased pressure on employers to provide affordable coverage to their employees, interest in HDHP/HSA healthcare plans is growing among employers who are trying to meet ACA mandates while watching their company’s bottom line.

Communicating the Benefits of an HSA

A recent survey found that 65 percent of consumers didn’t understand how HSAs work, with much of the confusion stemming from the differences between HSA and Flexible Spending Accounts. In fact, the vast majority of respondents incorrectly believed that HSA and FSA plans were the same, or that the “use it or lose it” provision of FSA plans applied to HSAs as well.

Make sure your employees understand the benefit of participating in your company’s HSA plan by providing them with clear, concise, easy to understand information that outlines the features and benefits of a Health Savings Account. Information to highlight includes the tax savings on all employer and employee contributions, the long-term, tax-free growth and the increased control over health care spending.

And while open enrollment season is a great time to get the conversation started, it shouldn’t end there. Regular communications about your company’s HSA is an important step in keeping employees engaged and educated about their health care options all year long.