It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Tis the season…to make benefit selections!

For those unfamiliar with the process, open enrollment is the period set by your employer during which you can opt to pick up, change or decline benefit coverage. Unless you get married or have a kid, it’s essentially (with a few exceptions) the only time during the year you can change up what medical plan you’re covered by or whether or not you have dental insurance, among other things.

Being the overachiever that I am, I finished making my selections in the first 24 hours (knowing that I could still make changes until the end but that I was marked as “complete” even if I decided not to). Of course I did. But here we are 14 days later (and with less than 36 hours left to go) and my office has a 67% completion rate so far. That means that one out of every three people has decided to wait until the bitter end.

Now, some of those people are legitimately trying to figure things out. One employee comes to mind because he has spent hours pouring over the plan documents for both our plans and those of his wife. Others are calculating how much they should put in their flexible spending accounts. Still others are considering whether it makes sense to stick with vision for the 5th year in a row or if it’s time to opt out.

The skeptic in me wonders why people weren’t thinking about this sooner. After all, everyone has had their benefits since 1/1 of this year. Open enrollment falls at the same time annually. We had presentations on 10/14 and 10/15 to update our employees about the changes to our benefit package. I have e-mails dated 10/19 and 11/3 giving people the heads up for the 11/8 start date.

When The Pro and I started going around bugging people to make their selections, someone asked us if they got a prize for completing it. The Pro sassily responded, “Yes. By making your selections, you get benefits in 2010.”

This is pretty typical for us – we hit a ridiculously low completion percentage and then go around to badger people in person before hitting 100% or close to it (last week I sat at someone’s desk while they clicked every single button – I don’t think they would have done it if I had walked away). But why is it so difficult to make people make their selections? Here are some possible answers:

  • They don’t care about their benefits.
  • They’re too busy to spend 5 minutes making the same selections as 2009.
  • They honestly don’t know what they want to do in 2010.

Obviously the first one is a joke. Even in a good economy, people care that they have medical coverage.

While they care, a large majority of our folks choose the same benefits year after year and even if they’ve been here for 35 years, they refuse to acknowledge that we don’t automatically reenroll them and that they have to actively make those selections. And on top of that, frankly, it’s just not pressing. While I spend my world immersed in the HR realm, benefits are a little bit taken for granted and since we give everyone plenty of time, employees put it in the back of their minds until they absolutely HAVE to do it.

And then there are the ones that are legitimately uncertain. We do have a few employees that watch every medical-related issue they come across and are unsure which plan gives them the best coverage. Their analyses are incredibly thorough and they’re still up in the air about what they want. Sometimes you can think all year and still not be ready.

How do you handle open enrollment? Are you aggressive like me and get it done right away? Do you wait it out? How come?

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5 responses to “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

  1. Pingback: HR Carnival of Global Giving is now open!

  2. I don’t wait until the last minute to make my decisions, but I often put off filling out the forms–because the forms are so confusing.

    The medical plan is one form. The dental plan is another. If I choose the dental PPO, then its the same company as the life insurance but if I choose the dental HMO its a different form. Most of the form for long-term disability asks questions pertaining to short-term disability, even though STD is automatic enrollment and we don’t have to complete this paperwork.

    Can’t HR make it any easier? Combine all the forms into one, with only fields that pertain to benefits we are being offered? Or create an online wizard that weeds out the chaff, so to speak, as I’m making my decisions? Or at least go through the different forms and highlight the fields you need me to fill in, or X out the ones I don’t?

    It’s not that I can’t make up my own mind, its that the forms get me all twisted up.

  3. @NotTelling – This post wasn’t really about the forms, but I’m glad you could use my blog to vent about your frustrations with HR. I’d suggest you ask your HR department about this, since I have no idea what you have to do. They could probably save you a lot of time and effort if you asked them rather than jumped in yourself and got yourself confused. Yes, it should be self-explanatory, but if it’s not, then why aren’t you asking for help?

  4. Pingback: Patience is a virtue « The HR Intern

  5. Pingback: The More You Know | The HR Intern

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