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October 23, 2019 | Benefits Management | Posted by Barbara Trumbly

Q&A Follow Up: Open Enrollment from an HR/Employer Perspective

In August, Ascentis hosted a webinar on Open Enrollment presented by Barbara Trumbly, President of TruHR Business Consultants. The session shared some best practices and creative solutions to better engage employees during this time each year. Since there is so much to cover on this topic, Barbara replied to the questions that came through during the session on our blog. Check out what other HR professionals are thinking about!

We do not have computerized OE, everything is still on paper. Do you have any ideas for encouraging employees to actually fill out the paperwork and turn it in on time?

First, ask your broker what solutions they offer. There are many benefit portals that brokers offer their clients so ask why yours isn't. There is a great program called Formstack which allows you to create fillable forms very easily. Employees are more likely to fill out an e-form than a paper form so try to make it easy. If neither of those work, have a "fill out forms" meeting. Everyone that hasn't completed the forms can come to the meeting and go through the forms together. Offer to serve lunch or refreshments to get them to come.

Can they use the enrollment form and mark the box they decline coverage as the waiver? Or does it need to be a separate waiver form?

The carrier’s form is fine - this usually has a statement that they have been offered and are waiving coverage.

Is there any point in time where someone would be uninsured (gap) when moving from one company to another before they are able to sign up for insurance with the new company?

Yes, this could happen depending on when coverage at the former company ends and benefits begin at the next company. For example: If benefits term at the end of the month at the former company and the employee leaves 8/26 - benefits would term on 8/31. If the employee didn't begin working at the new company until 9/3 and benefits begin the first of the month after date of hire (i.e., 10/1), the employee would be uninsured through September.

Do you try to get answers from each employee? I work for a construction company with employees all over the country and most employees typically do not respond.

I would make sure to receive a response from everyone if it is an active enrollment.

If you choose an HMO and later want to change it to a PPO, is there a time frame they can make these changes?

Open enrollment or a qualifying event.

If you are in a HMO and your husband lost his benefits can I change my plan to a PPO and add him. Are do I have to wait until open enrollment to add him.

Loss of job/benefits would be a qualifying event and he can come on to your coverage. Generally, that will also allow you to make plan changes. However, every carrier has different rules so check with your benefits broker to make sure you can switch from HMO to PPO.

Some employees will say "just sign me up" which can put a burden on the company because employees want someone else to choose for them. How best to avoid this?

Let them know you’re not legally able to do that. It's a contract and you cannot contract on behalf of your employees. Hold their hand and walk them through the process but don't do the process for them.

Do you recommend a passive enrollment?

If there are no plan changes.

In California, will the medical waiver cover the employer regarding ACA laws? We have an employee who went onto the Health Exchange tell us that he went on his spouse’s plan. However, now the IRS is fining us.

A signed waiver should protect you - especially if he indicated on the form that he was covered under a spouse’s plan.

How do we protect ourselves regarding the waivers?

A best practice for business is to require waivers from any employee who declines coverage under an employer plan. Whether they have coverage from a spouse or parent, or simply elect not to purchase, have the staff member sign a waiver acknowledging their choice that clearly outlines the implications of having to wait until the next open enrollment period.

Can we tell employees that when missing deadlines - they will be defaulted to the plan they currently have?


I am a Project Manager. What is the best way to support my benefits specialist during this time?

Help the benefits specialist with anything that will drive efficiency - communications, feedback, automated tools and resources.

We are switching from a Plan Year (Dec 1 - Nov 30) to a calendar year (Jan 1 - Dec 31) requiring two separate open enrollments (Passive and Active). How would you recommend to best navigate this change?

Have the December 1 renewal meeting early and explain how the change is going to work. Have the January 1 meeting as early as possible and get the word out in as many communication channels as you can. The Active enrollment will require everyone's participation so let everyone know early that they must make an election or waive coverage.

I am new to the benefit process, what are some key process that I need to take for a successful open enrollment?

Plan early, have the right partners in place and lean on them - don't be afraid to make them do the work! Communicate with employees in multiple ways (in-person, email, intranet, webinar, etc.). Make sure employees know the deadlines and send reminders often.

If you could use a fresh perspective on engaging your workforce during open enrollment, check out the full Open Enrollment from an HR/Employer Perspective webinar available on-demand here.

Barbara is a human resource consultant providing outsourced human resources services to successful businesses throughout California in various industries including high tech, insurance agencies, law firms, medical, marketing, and finance. Barbara holds a Juris Doctor Degree from Northwestern California University, is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR/SHRM-SCP)