Amid all of the noise about health care reform we can’t
forget that the end of the year is approaching. Whatever happens with federal
legislation open enrollment for January 1st plans is just around the
corner. If you are one of the many employers who renew their plans on a
calendar year basis I hope you have a schedule in place.
Ask for Rates as Soon
The smallest employers may get lost at the bottom of the
renewal pile. If you have not already started the process to request new rates
and options don’t wait until after Labor Day. If your broker or provider says,
“Let’s wait until we have more data.” Tell them, “Sure I’ll wait for more
information, but give me what your can now.” If they respond with outrageous
figures it may be time to look for a new broker.
How Bad Will it Be?
Healthcare reform has overshadowed other employee benefits
headlines so news about forecasts has been buried. PriceWaterHouseCoopers
projects 9% increases, slightly lower than previous years. If you don’t get an
answer about your rates you can alwayss ask, “Will it be more or less than the
projected 9% average increase I just read about?”
Search for Options as
Early as Possible
If the 9% is too much to handle, or pass on to employees,
start to look at plan design and different providers available as soon as
possible. You may find the grass is not greener but it’s an easier decision to
make when you what options are available.
To often small, and even mid-sized, employers wait until the
last minute which delays the potential for good communications of any changes
to employees, adds to confusion and can limit leverage. Choose a date when you
want to make a decision and tell the broker and providers. The date should not
be December 1st, or you will still be scrambling on the 20th.
Identify the steps you have to take for open enrollment and work backwards to
allow for enough time for meetings, mailings and processing.
No one will be happy if you are spending huge sums on
benefits that employees don’t understand.