Tag Archives: open enrollment

The More You Know

Today’s post comes at you in the form of a PSA-style announcement. Even if you don’t have benefits, hopefully some day you will and it just makes good sense to have some kind of awareness of what you’ll be dealing with.

For a lot of companies, this is the time of year when open enrollment strikes. I won’t get on my high horse and rant about how people typically handle it like I did last year (though I feel the same way, trust me).

With the rise in health care costs and general economic woes, there has been a heavy increase in the interest in the High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and the accompanying Health Savings Account (HSA). No idea what I’m talking about? Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights:

  • HDHPs have significantly higher deductibles (as the name suggests) than traditional PPOs and HMos that you need to reach before the insurance coverage kicks in
  • Because your deductible is so high, the premium tends to be much lower than those PPOs and HMOs
  • You can put money into an HSA on a pre-tax basis that’ll help you hit that deductible and pay for other health care stuff, but whatever you don’t use will roll over from year to year, accruing interest all the while (and in some cases, you can invest it if you choose!)
  • Some employers (like mine) will contribute money to your HSA

Who does it work best for? Well, in my company, we have two core groups. The first is made up of those bullet proof 20- or 30-something singles who don’t ever have to go to the doctor. The second is the 55+ folks who are already maxing out their 401(k) and looking for another tax shelter – they can max out their HSA contribution and pay out of pocket for health expenses.

As we head toward the new year, like I mentioned, it’s generally a good idea to get more familiar with your benefits. Most non-HR people aren’t so entertained, but they do affect you directly, so it’s worth getting a little more knowledge about them.

Have any random benefit questions as we head toward the New Year? Drop me a line and I’ll be sure to answer them.

Happy benefit-ing!


Patience is a virtue

Patience is NOT my strong suit.

I have an obsessive personality. When I do something, I throw myself into it 150%. I can even multitask obessively – and I’m good at doing it. So when I have multiple projects, I am fully committed to all of them and want to race through them and get them complete and out the door so I can move onto the next.

Sometimes, this works to my advantage. Some things like open enrollment require a constant nagging and a sense of impatience: “Do this now or you won’t have benefits. K?” Others require a little bit of pushing to accomplish a final product. I’ve been working on an onboarding site for months now and it’s basically done. In my mind, it took forever. But I spoke with a colleague today who said that it was the first initiative she had actually seen completed since she started here almost 3 years ago.

Talk about an ego boost…

On the other hand, sometimes the whole impateince thing works to my detriment. Just a few hours after my head started to swell out of control, in response to an e-mail in which I was bothering someone about the status of initiatives I’m working on, I was told that I’m pushing too hard and that things don’t work at the pace that I want them to because there are other priorities that need to be addressed.  The e-mail said that while a lot of my interests are important (and the e-mail was very clear about saying that they ARE still important), essentially, I need to chill out. I’m pissing people off and it needs to stop. Whoops.

Luckily, the person who told me this is someone I respect and someone who knows that I’ll accept it as constructive criticism and not a slap on the wrist (even if that’s what it feels like). When I wrote back a sincere e-mail admitting that patience is something I need to work on and that I would back off, the response was this: “I wouldn’t back off, I would just back down…a little :)”.

The lesson here is to know your limits. If I backed off, my onboarding site might perpetually be in process and my social media guidelines would never get published. But letting things go for more than a week might be slightly more apropos than sending bothersome follow-up e-mails after the 7 days have gone by without reaching a conclusion. The point is this: have a voice and a opinion and do your best to get things taken care, but don’t be blinded by your own enthusiasm to the extent that you think your project is the only thing that matters. As much as you’d like to believe that, it’s not, and the more you believe it, the more you’re going to piss your teammembers off.

Figure out when to push and when not to. Sometimes you’ll need to back off…but just a little.

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?