Helping with Open Enrollment

It’s Open Enrollment time again for many companies. Those covered by Small Group plans, are fearful of what this year’s rate changes will bring. Premiums have risen sharply for the past several years. To manage the expense to the organization, increased co-pays and high deductible plans have typically been passed on to your employees.

Federal Regulations Bring Change and Clarity
Due to The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, commonly known as “Obama Care”), employers will see changes not only in price and coverage, but in how these changes are portrayed.

Benefit Administrators will tell the same story. Many employees spend less time trying to understand their benefit plans than choosing which restaurant to go to for dinner. Many of them will go to their Administrator in the 11th hour and say, ”just pick a plan for me!” One of the biggest hurdles has been coverage summaries written in hard-to-understand language. However, this coming year will be different thanks to a provision of President Obama’s health care overhaul. The new guidelines mandate that insurers must provide a user-friendly summary of coverage for all offered health plans. Standardized summaries that explain key terms and cost details of the plans being offered are required. These rules will make it easier to compare policies and the costs and benefits of each plan offered.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) are also changing dramatically for the 2013 Plan Year. In the past, the amount you could contribute was limited by the individual employer. In 2013, the cap for all participants will be $2,500.00. This change alone makes the Health Savings Account (HSA) option look more attractive. An HSA is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to those who are enrolled in a high deductible health plan. The funds contributed to an HSA are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit and, unlike an FSA, the funds roll over and accumulate year to year if not spent. Participants may contribute $3,050 if covered by a single plan or $6,150 for a family plan. To qualify for an HSA, the plan deductible must be at least $1,200 for single coverage and $2,400 for a family. Health Care Reform exchanges, which will be coming up for review next month, will also offer high deductible plans in January of 2014.

Help with Employer Responsibility
As employers, it is your responsibility to encourage your employees to give the Open Enrollment process the attention it deserves. Providing easy to understand comparisons is a critical first step. Holding Open Enrollment meetings, with invitations extended to spouses as well as employees, is important for the proper dissemination of critically important information.

The Health Insurance experts at the Merriam Agency are able to provide clear, concise side-by-side plan comparisons that help you, the employer, compare “apples to apples.” The clarity of the information you obtain and provide to your employee population can make the Open Enrollment process more productive and less stressful for all parties involved.