open enrollment

Estimated Time On HR: Procuring Benefit Plans And Open Enrollment Administration Tasks

Are you wondering about how much time the benefit plan selection and/or open enrollment processes may take? Our experts weigh in.

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Open enrollment is the annual time for employees to make benefit election changes for the upcoming year. But before open enrollment can happen, you will need to spend some time procuring the right plan(s) for your company’s HR (human resources) strategy. 

If you are wondering how much time should be allotted for these tasks, our benefits experts have outlined the general processes and estimated time required for each one below.

Initial Set Up Of Offering Benefits 

When you first reach out to a broker to get a quote for a health plan, they will need employee data to complete a census. Once this information has been submitted, you will have an official meeting to discuss options. With several different parties (broker, carrier, and company) needing to respond to each other to answer questions and finalize details, this process can take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks – with a bit of waiting in between. 

Benefits Renewal Process 

When it is time for renewals, a benefits administrator typically conducts an analysis to: 

  • Understand the estimated costs 
  • Forecast what they will pay throughout the year with employees coming and going 
  • Determine if they want to increase enrollments – and if so, where 

Overall, this type of analysis requires 3-5 hours for someone who has digital access to all the enrollment and financial data. They would then need to review benefit plan options with executives and/or board members for approval, which takes anywhere from several hours to several weeks for decisions to be made. 

Benefit Plans Have Been Decided: Now What? 

After decisions have been finalized for either a new benefit plan or a renewal, the carrier needs to create summary plan documents (SPDs), which could take 7-10 days for turnaround. Once SPDs are returned to the client, you will need about 15-30 minutes per plan document to review their accuracy. 

With finalized SPDs, it is time to prepare benefit guides for employees. These typically take 8-12 hours to prepare, depending on how many plans are included in the guide. 

If you have an online open enrollment system, your IT (Information Technology) team will need 7-8 days to upload plans, rates, enrollment windows, enrollment rules, and more in the system. (The initial procurement or development of an online benefits system would take significantly more time.) 

Despite any investments required to provide and update an online system, there is an estimated 15% of time savings for empowering employees to enroll through an online benefits portal. An online system also dramatically minimizes human errors and allows employees to track their enrollments.

Open Enrollment Administration Tasks 

You are now ready to begin open enrollment. This typically includes a meeting (digital or in-person) to educate employees about the benefit plan options. Other tasks involved with open enrollment include: 

  • Preparing materials and presentation for open enrollment meeting: 1-5 hours 
  • Conducting open enrollment meeting: 1 hour 
  • Creating a full wrap document to comply with ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act): 1 hour if digital 
  • Answering employee questions about open enrollment: 1-3 hours 
  • Following-up with outstanding employee enrollments: 1-2 hours 
  • Confirming benefit plan elections: 10 minutes per application if on paper; otherwise, the online system handles this 

Overall, some employers report an average of 8 hours managing benefits enrollments, with 37% saying benefits administration involves “moderate to heavy paperwork.”  

Administering A Flexible Spending Account (I.E., Cafeteria Plan) 

Flexible Spending Plans (FSAs) are a valuable benefit option that reduce employee tax burdens for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Most companies use a third-party administrator (TPA) to administer these plans due to legal requirements, extensive forms, ongoing legislation, and to maintain employee privacy. 

Researching and selecting a TPA can take anywhere from 6-10 hours. After choosing your TPA, you will need to answer questionnaires about how you run your business, determine your eligibility requirements and contribution limits, decide if HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) will be offered concurrently, and more. This usually takes 2-4 hours to complete. 

Even when using a TPA, there are daily FSA administration tasks that include: 

  • Ensuring claims have been submitted 
  • Verifying the company is funding claims 
  • Monitoring balances 
  • Issuing debit cards 
  • Answering employee questions 

For a company of 50 employees, plan to spend 30-45 minutes each week on FSA administration duties alone. 

Summary Of Open Enrollment Administration Tasks 

Despite the costs of administration, a 2022 employee survey noted that healthcare is still the most important type of benefit offered to employees. This means offering competitive benefits continues to play a critical role in your employee attraction and retention strategy. 

When you choose to outsource your HR to Stratus, you gain access to Fortune-500 level benefits without having to spend time researching plan options. Our team also handles the administrative burden of offering benefits, including answering your employees’ benefits questions via phone, email, or text. 

For more information, please book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly.

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