Benefits Enrollment for Behavioral Health: How to Improve the Process

Employees discussing at an office

Offering a robust employee benefits plan can help your company stand out against competitors to attract and retain exceptional talent. But managing benefits enrollment for all of your employees and their beneficiaries can be a cumbersome task. 

For new hires, benefits enrollment usually occurs during onboarding. For everyone else, it largely occurs during open enrollment. That’s the time when employers dedicate a fair amount of resources to evaluate any benefits being offered, build a communication plan, and process all of the enrollment forms that come in. While this is part and parcel of running an organization, it’s worth exploring how to make the process more efficient.

Benefits Enrollment Process for Employers

The benefits enrollment process can be quite complex. Most employees complete their benefits enrollment during the annual open enrollment period (which can vary based on the company, but typically occurs in the fall), making that a busy time for human resources. The best way to ensure that employees have a positive experience is to keep the process organized with a solid plan and user-friendly enrollment tools. 

Let's walk through the steps involved in benefits enrollment and the many moving parts there are for both HR and employees. Then, we’ll share how to make this process more efficient with human capital management (HCM) software.

Selecting Benefits to Offer

As an employer, offering the right benefits can boost employee engagement and give a business a competitive advantage during recruiting. Meanwhile, a weak benefits package may lead to higher turnover as employees may be enticed by competitors offering better compensation and benefits.

If the organization has never offered benefits before, they’ll have to start from scratch in building a benefits package. However, even companies that already offer benefits should evaluate their offerings annually. For instance, they can survey employees or review competitor offerings to identify any gaps in the current benefits package. Offering well-rounded benefits, particularly in behavioral health and human services, can help offset the generally lower compensation of the industry.

Some benefits for employers to consider include:

  • Health insurance: Explore different PPOs, HMOs, and high-deductible plans to give employees some options. While both employers and employees tend to make selections based on costs, it’s also important to consider the medical providers available — employees likely have existing doctors or hospitals that they would like to receive care through. 
  • Vision and dental: While employers are not required to offer vision and dental plans for adults, offering these additional health benefits can enhance employee wellness and make a benefits plan more appealing and competitive.
  • Flexible spending account: A flexible spending account (FSA) allows employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for qualified healthcare or eligible dependent care expenses that are not covered under traditional health care coverage. Common FSA uses include payment for over-the-counter drugs, daycare expenses, and copays for medical appointments or procedures.
  • Health savings account: If a company offers high-deductible plans, they can also offer health savings accounts (HSAs). An HSA allows employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for medical costs. Employers often contribute some funds to this account in addition to employee contributions. Employees who choose an HMO or PPO plan cannot enroll in an HSA and should instead choose an FSA.
  • Retirement plans: Offering a 401k or other retirement savings can help employees prepare for their futures. Behavioral health occupations are often physically and emotionally demanding, so ensuring that team members are able to retire when they feel that they need to is particularly important.
  • Life insurance: Life insurance is used to provide a designated beneficiary with financial support in the event that the employee passes away. This money is often used to cover end-of-life expenses and help support surviving family members.
  • Long-term disability: Long-term disability insurance is designed to provide financial support to employees who are unable to work for a long period due to an accident, illness, or injury. 

Employers should select the types of health coverage and additional benefits that they would like to offer, then start negotiating benefits with carriers or find a broker to do so on their behalf. This process should begin a few months before open enrollment, as sorting through all of the available plans and working with insurance carriers can take quite a bit of time. Benefits administration has moved beyond basic health coverage and it can be difficult to manage without the right software.

Sharing Benefits Information and Deadlines With Employees

Benefits enrollment: entrepreneurs having a meeting

Once an employer has decided what benefits to offer, they need to share this information with all of their eligible employees. It’s best to go into open enrollment with a solid communication plan in place. This can include open enrollment meetings, information sessions, or webinars to help employees understand the options available to them. It should also include follow-up emails so that deadlines are not missed. With HCM software tools, these reminders can usually be automated.

Many businesses still use paper enrollment forms. However, this can create a lot of extra data entry work for HR departments — especially with companies that offer a wide range of benefits through different carriers. Employers must plan for the enrollment method(s) they’ll use and determine how employees can access information on the plan options. Distributing this information digitally is usually best as some of the insurance plan documents can be long.

Processing Benefits Enrollments and Changes

After the deadline has passed and all enrollment forms have been completed, they need to be processed by human resources and payroll staff. If employees completed their benefits enrollment forms on paper, these typically need to be entered into each benefits carrier’s portal to complete enrollment. 

If there’s a large number of employees and an expansive benefits program, this is incredibly time-consuming as everything will need to be processed before the plans’ effective dates. Many HCM tools integrate with benefits carriers to more easily transmit the necessary data. Payroll staff also has to review benefits selections and ensure that all payroll deductions for insurance premiums are accurately set up.

Benefits Enrollment Process for Employees

Employees may not have as many steps to go through, but the benefits enrollment process can be just as time-consuming (and confusing) on the employee side. It’s particularly challenging for remote workforces who often have to navigate the process more independently.

Employees need to sort through a wide range of benefits offerings and insurance coverage options to determine which one(s) to enroll in. Many employees don’t fully understand the different types of health plans or how to evaluate health care costs. 

A recent Aflac survey found that 72% of employers believe that their employees understand total health care costs well, but only 59% of employees actually do. Software solutions can often provide better plan comparisons and explanations of benefits to guide employees through this part of the process. If such tools are not available, employees will need to reach out to HR or do their best to make selections on their own.

Once employees have made their selections, they need to complete all of their enrollment forms. This can be a frustrating process if they need to write out or re-enter the same information on a bunch of different enrollment forms. Using a centralized platform for all benefits enrollments can help eliminate this duplicate entry.

How HCM Software Improves Benefits Enrollment

Benefits enrollment: group of employees working together

Companies can step up their benefits administration processes by using HCM software to streamline benefits enrollment. HCMs can guide employees through the process in an efficient manner while giving them access to the resources they need to understand their options. For employers, HCMs can make it easier to track and process employees’ benefits selections. Here are some key benefits of using HCM software for benefits enrollment.

Managing Employee Eligibility

The enrollment process can be even more complex when you have different employee groups and eligibility rules to manage. HR and benefits administrators need to track all of these different plans and rules carefully, which can make the enrollment process even more time-consuming. 

HCM solutions, such as ContinuumCloud’s, allow organizations to define multiple plan types with different eligibility rules. The employee group and benefits eligibility status can be tied to the position with Position Control, rather than the individual employee, so that it’s always maintained accurately in the system.

Employee Self-Service

Allowing employees to complete the benefits enrollment process on their own with digital self-service features can improve the experience for the employee. It also improves the experience for the organization, as less time and resources need to be dedicated to paperwork. Instead, human resources staff can focus on answering other questions and providing support as needed.

ContinuumCloud’s online open enrollment wizard can guide employees through all of their benefits enrollment tasks during employee onboarding, open enrollment, or after a qualifying life event. Employees are guided through an easy-to-navigate process where they can see projected payroll deductions based on each benefit option and view side-by-side comparisons to help them make their decisions. 

While employees make their selections, employers can monitor their activity on the Benefits Dashboard. The dashboard displays where employees are in the benefits enrollment process so that employers can follow up with those that have not completed their enrollment. After selections have been made, employers can view detailed reports regarding employee plan selections and deduction totals.

Coordinating Payroll Deductions

Processing payroll and benefits enrollment within a unified HCM system can ensure accuracy for all benefits-related deductions and reporting. It can also condense all of the different carriers and plan information into one convenient location. With ContinuumCloud’s Carrier Cloud service, organizations can receive alerts on any updates, such as new loans, reductions, or additions to contributions, which then flow directly into payroll.

Streamline Benefits Enrollment With ContinuumCloud 

Now that you know how a unified HCM platform can help streamline employee benefits enrollment, consider upgrading your benefits management process with ContinuumCloud’s unified HCM solution. ContinuumCloud can help you optimize open enrollment, improve communication around benefits, and provide an easy-to-use interface for both employers and employees.

ContinuumCloud’s HCM system was built specifically for behavioral health and human services organizations. As such, it’s not only well-equipped to support the benefits enrollment process, but also to meet the specific HR needs of behavioral health organizations. Contact us to learn how ContinuumCloud can help your organization improve its benefits enrollment process.

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