If you're like many benefits professionals, you have a lot to juggle these days. You may be retooling your communication plan to include a return to in-office work policy or adjusting it for a partially remote workforce. And there’s always the push/pull of changing priorities while proactively trying innovative ways to retain talent amid rising turnover rates.

While the nation still struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, HR leaders will once again, like in 2020, be especially challenged during open enrollment season. Distributed workforce issues, among others, will add complexity to the critical communications needed to ensure employee selection of benefits. As 2022’s open enrollment will once again demand more flexibility in your approach, following are three considerations which benefits professionals should address to be ready for the season.

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Overcoming potential open enrollment disengagement during the pandemic

In normal times, many employers already find it difficult to fully mobilize their workforces to engage in their health care benefits selection. This year, because social distancing and work-from-home challenges have thrown a curveball into organizations’ normal HR presentations and health and benefit fair plans, we invite you to reread this article, which explores these challenges and offers some solutions.

But all hope should not be lost! In a 2020 survey, Further found that 69% of consumers reported that their health is more important to them today compared to pre-coronavirus times, and 63% report they are paying more attention to their health care benefits. In other words, employers and employees share a common goal: to reduce health care costs and improve health.

Now more than ever, employers should provide strong internal communications and leverage technology to help their employees make health care decisions. Employers and brokers should evaluate not only the message being delivered but also the best media channel to communicate through, such as email, comprehensive online benefits portals, and mobile apps.

Increasing adoption in health savings accounts

While COVID-19 has brought about significant challenges, it actually creates an opportunity to have a productive dialogue during open enrollment with employees about their health care benefits as a whole, and how best to save and spend funds in their employer-sponsored High Deductible Health Care Plans (HDHPs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

To help your teams understand the value of HSAs, consider employing the following techniques:

1.     Communicate, communicate, communicate, and use plain language that will be easily understood. Our playbook could become a vital resource for your education efforts.

2.     Consider inviting your employees’ spouses or partners to any open enrollment event. They need to understand these benefits, too.
3.     Invite your HSA administrator to lead the meeting. They can answer your employees’ questions with ease.
4.     Bring the information to life through charts, graphs, and videos, and make it available on a dedicated intranet (feel free to use the graphic featured In this post!). Most employees will perceive HDHPs and HSAs as a complicated change in health care benefits and reading explanatory text alone about the options won’t be enough to convince them otherwise.
5.     In addition, many employees don’t fully understand the true cost and value of their existing benefit plans, let alone what a new HDHP/HSA option means. Use comparison charts to help them see the differences.
6.     Provide cost calculators and other estimation tools so employees can see the numbers come to life.

Keys to motivating your employees

A majority of employees primarily use their HSA to pay for health care now (as opposed to using it as an investment tool), so they immediately can leverage this benefit offering. However, employees sometimes need assistance with adoption of HSAs, and employers are key to motivating employees’ adoption of HSAs.

You can motivate your employees to use their HSas by sweetening the pot by seeding new HSA plans with employer contributions, or considering subsidizing HSA plan premiums in the early years of conversion to support enrollment. Or, set up HSA plans to open automatically for employees to ensure day-one readiness.

You can also set deductible limits below the annual contribution limit, so an employee can cover the entire deductible with HSA contributions in the first year. Help employees commit to regular contributions to their account by offering automatic pretax payroll contributions. And make sure employees know that preventive care is covered 100 percent.

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Challenging the "great resignation" with great benefits

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Dubbed “the Great Resignation,” workplaces are seeing an ongoing trend in employees quitting their jobs. Reported in Forbes, a record four million workers called it quits in April 2021 alone, according to the Labor Department. While there are a variety of reasons that an individual chooses to leave an organization, employers should understand that new job candidates, as well as current employees, want competitive health benefits packages.

Data from a recent Further survey confirms this. When asked how important benefits were in deciding to accept a job offer, 24% of employees said this was the most important factor while 46% reported it was very important. Beneficially, HDHPs and HSAs offer employees the tool to help take more control of health care decisions while also helping them save money today on taxes, setting them up with a cushion for future health care costs in retirement.

Cheers to a productive open enrollment season.

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