For some employers 2010 health benefits rates are finalized and plan details are ready for publication. Others are still scrambling with last minute tweaking to meet budgets and timelines. Whether you are set or not the information provided to employees probably includes one, or more, toll free phone numbers to contact providers with questions. Have you ever called one of these numbers?
Don’t wait until employees are ready to pick up the phone to check these customer service lines to make certain that the response is likely to meet employee needs.
Ask these are two essential questions before contact numbers are issued:
1. If participants have a choice of plans is there a different number to call for someone who is not yet enrolled but seeking answers from the provider?
2. Is the call center team ready to answer inquiries about the plan that will be offered in 2010 or are they only working off current information?
Open enrollment is a terrific opportunity to reinforce the value and cost of benefits. Too often it becomes an exercise in frustration with employees spinning their wheels chasing information needed to make good decisions. Alternatively employees skip the research and are subsequently dissatisfied with their choices.
We could make a very long list of examples of misinformation or inability to respond. I can start with the time I called a provider who told me they could not answer my question because we were not yet enrolled. The next call was to Human Resources who told me only the carrier could answer the question. You get the picture.
Create a list of common questions, call the number and ask them. If you don’t want to be a mystery shopper at least make certain that the center has the Q & A. Don’t forget that benefits paperwork is often handed over to a spouse so the employee is not always the one who makes the call. Your broker or provider can help with this task. The time spent will be well worth the hours and frustration saved on behalf of employees. It will be nice to hear an employee report, “I called and got the answer.”