Open enrollment and the couple of months leading up to it take up most of the average health insurance broker’s focus, and with good reason. But the off-season is a valuable opportunity to connect with your clients on issues you may be too busy to handle during that busy enrollment season. These strategies will help you get more out of the quieter part of the year.
1. Work ahead on contract reviews
Your clients should review their contracts every year to make sure their benefits still match their needs. But if they try to handle this review at the start of open enrollment, there may not be enough time to go over everything in detail. Decisions on the medical plan tend to dominate most of their focus, and they will have limited attention for other benefits such as long-term disability (LTD). Clients may go on autopilot and renew the same contract, even if it no longer meets the company’s needs.
For example, one client’s LTD package covered just base salary. They had recently launched a new sales division whose employees were paid by commission only — meaning those sales employees weren’t properly covered under their LTD plan. This had the potential to create issues at claim time and went unnoticed because the client couldn’t take the time to review the contract properly.
Mistakes like these can stay in place for multiple years, even if a client changes insurance carriers. They submit a request for proposals for the same contract and there’s no guarantee the new carrier will catch underlying issues. The best way to discover these problems is through a thorough contract review.
2. Schedule summer reviews
The quiet summer months are ideal for a focused contract review. You and your client can look over their package and really think about whether the benefits it offers are the right fit. Since they can update their contract at any point, there’s no need to rush a review during open enrollment. Save this discussion for the off-season when both of you can focus on these important reviews.
When you reach out for a contract review, not only will clients appreciate that you made the effort to go over their benefits, but there’s also a good chance the meeting will lead to more business. During the process, the client might realize their situation has changed and they need to adjust their benefits by raising plan maximums, covering bonuses on top of salaries and/or adding new benefits such as executive disability.
3. Prepare for the next open enrollment
The off-season is also an opportunity to start preparing for the next open enrollment so there’s less to do at the end of the year when you and your clients are slammed.
Start by sitting down with clients and going over the results of last year’s open enrollment with them. What went well, and what could be improved for this year? You have time now to go through these mental exercises and adjust, whereas if you wait until open enrollment, it may be too late to make adjustments.
Present your road map for the next open enrollment as well. Highlight what products will be available, when employees will start signing up and what steps you both can take to increase enrollment. If you’re comfortable bringing a carrier representative to this meeting, they can also provide their suggestions for improving open enrollment.
Finally, you could discuss the client’s existing portfolio and whether it makes sense to fill any gaps. For example, the client may need to add a vision plan or executive disability coverage. Clients can consider these changes now but will likely be too busy to think about them during open enrollment.
4. Teach employees about benefits
Employees can absorb only so much information in one sitting. When you hold training classes during open enrollment, chances are the employees are more focused on signing up. The off-season may present a better opportunity to educate employees because they aren’t caught up in the complexity of enrollment.
Some ways you can help employees include reviewing the rules for their existing benefits, walking them through the claims process or discussing the launch of a new product that will be available during the next open enrollment. Contact your carriers to see what training materials they offer and whether they can send someone to help with your presentation.
You also can start your pre-communication with employees for open enrollment. Let them know what products will be available and when they can start signing up. They will appreciate being able to prepare earlier.
Finally, highlight the financial benefits of the existing program so employees better appreciate what they’re receiving. Workers might not realize how much their employers have invested in the program until you break it down for them.
5. Find the right technology connections
Different insurance carriers match better with different technology platforms for enrollment and administrative services. You should help your clients find the right fit to improve their experience through a smoother connection.
First, figure out what they need. Think about the tech partners you and your clients like to use. Then think about which insurance carriers work well with each tech firm. From there, you can start proposing matches. For example, if you learn a major client has signed up with Tech Firm A during the summer, you can suggest the insurance carriers in your portfolio that work best with that platform.
6. Explore HR compliance concerns
Human resources departments are fighting to keep up with new regulations. If you offer to educate them about common compliance issues and identify trends, it’s an easy way to get an appointment and build relationships during the off-season.
For example, paid family leave has become a hot topic over the past 12 months as states and cities launch new legislation. Your clients are concerned about how to adjust their benefits to stay compliant with the latest rules. They also want to know which states and cities could be next to launch paid family leave so they can start preparing for upcoming changes.
American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) compliance are two other common pain points and are great topics to suggest for a training seminar. Your carrier partners may offer materials to help you cover these topics and could be willing to send a representative along for the discussion if you want assistance.
The sooner you can start working on these strategies, the more you’ll get out of this year’s off-season. By putting in this effort now, you’ll make life easier for the next open enrollment while expanding your business at the same time.
Shea Treadway is Unum’s regional vice president of sales and client management for the Midwest region. Shea may be contacted at [email protected]