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As 2019 comes to a close, tough decisions must be made for next year’s budget—including those with a direct impact on the lives of your employees. As we enter the season of benefit renewals, employers must choose a plan that fits their budget, while also addressing their unique employee needs.
Karleen Green is a partner at Phelps Dunbar, and her practice concentrates on employee benefits and employment matters in both the public and private sectors. Her insights are particularly valuable as she represents clients in a broad range of industries: construction, health care, public utilities, package and freight delivery, financial services, fueling, gaming, industrial equipment, insurance, real estate, food service, education, and state and local government. Here, she shares meaningful strategies to enact this year to ensure you get the most robust benefits for your workforce at the best rate, now and in the future.
A SYSTEMIZED APPROACH
• Start early. Contact your insurance carriers early to discuss renewals. Starting late eats up precious time to formulate an effective strategy, and the result is a rush to get your open enrollment completed by the effective date. This can lead to general dissatisfaction with the benefit plan and an influx of complaints from your workforce.
• Know your team. Evaluate your current plans to ensure they still meet employee health care and financial needs. If that’s not the case, it’s time to explore other options and make decisions. Ask what is requested by your employees but not being received.
• Explore your options. Ask your broker to explain what is driving your claims and how any carrier or third-party administrator may work on your behalf. It is important to understand the division of labor to ensure the plan is administered in accordance with its terms and the law.
• Plan enrollment dates. Set realistic expectations for scheduling open enrollment. It helps to set a target open enrollment date, then work backward to determine deadlines for critical decisions to be made. Trying to schedule open enrollment too early may not allow employees sufficient information to make decisions about next year’s coverage. Likewise, setting open enrollment too late can cause implementation delays that extend beyond the effective date. Both scenarios leave employees experiencing hiccups in benefits administration that planning can circumvent.
“Managing employer health insurance costs today will add up to considerable savings next year,” says Green. All employers should review their benefit plans throughout the year to identify potential changes in plan design and verify that plans are being administered properly. Additionally, employers with 50 or more full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) should review their health plans to ensure their plans comply with the employer shared responsibility requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The IRS has begun issuing proposed penalty notices for failure to offer coverage as required by the ACA, so employers should administer benefits and maintain proper records to evidence compliance. Well-prepared employers will efficiently administer employee benefits throughout the year and particularly during leaves of absence. For more information from Phelps Dunbar’s
labor and employment attorneys, visit phelps.com.