Maintaining your organizational wellbeing during the unprecedented 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic requires a broad view of the factors that impact your ability to achieve your business objectives while supporting the personal wellbeing of your employees. COVID-19 has impacted plan design, communications, benefit elections, and administration. As your organization prepares for the next annual enrollment, you may want to address a number of action items differently this year. Check out the action steps below to help you identify any changes you need, or want, to make to your annual enrollment process and materials.
Strategize. Create. Distribute.
An increase in the number of employees working remotely and the need to social distance for those returning to the workplace may change how you communicate benefits information to employees. For those working remotely, plan information will likely be distributed electronically. You may be able to distribute materials at the worksite to employees who have returned to the workplace, but you may not be able to conduct in-person activities such as benefit fairs. You may also be required to mail materials via U.S. mail to employees without worksite access to your electronic information system and to non-employees such as COBRA qualified beneficiaries. Thus, your organization may be faced with multiple communication channels this year. What strategy do you have for creating and distributing benefit and enrollment information for the next annual enrollment?
Automate. Enroll. Transmit.
Employers have been migrating toward the use of online enrollment platforms for several years. COVID-19 is accelerating that trend. Remote working and social distancing may result in the need for your organization to conduct online enrollment for at least some of your workforce. Online platforms give employees an opportunity to review benefits materials and make selections at their convenience, and then save or print confirmations. Online platforms may also be used to distribute materials such as Summaries of Benefits and Coverage (SBCs). Once annual enrollment is completed, electronic enrollment systems have the added benefits of producing electronic reports that can be transmitted to insurers and third-party administrators or using secure file transfers that can transmit enrollment information directly to those vendors. How could an online enrollment process benefit your organization?
Request. Receive. Report.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers with self-insured medical plans are required to report on actual coverage provided to employees and their family members. IRS Form 1095, which is used for reporting, requires the inclusion of the Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for all covered individuals — not just the employee. Under an insured plan, the insurer will be responsible for reporting on coverage, but it will be the employer that must obtain the information for the insurer, but a sponsor of a self-insured plan has sole responsibility. Annual enrollment may be the best time to ask employees to provide SSNs for any family members that will be covered under the medical plan. What process does your organization use to request spouse and dependent SSNs at annual enrollment?
Identify. Update. Provide.
Employers are required to distribute a significant number of notices to employees on an annual basis. Employers must provide notices that contain information about the Children's Health Insurance Plan, Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act, Medicare Part D, and the availability of the HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices. Employers with wellness plans may be required to distribute additional notices such as an ADA or GINA notice. In addition, some notices may have changes in content and need to be updated. Many employers include these required notices with their annual enrollment materials. Which required annual notices and updated versions should be part of your next annual enrollment?
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Under IRS rules cafeteria plan, elections generally must be made before a plan year begins and remain in effect until the end of the plan year. Elections changes may be made mid-year only in the event of certain events such as marriage, the birth of a child, or changes in employment status. Insurers may also have rules that apply. Although few changes have been made to the election rules over the past several years, in May of this year, the IRS issued more relaxed mid-year enrollment rules to accommodate workplace changes caused by COVID-19. The increased flexibility enables employers to allow employees to make mid-year changes beyond those permitted under the "normal" rules. Unfortunately, the more liberal IRS rules were issued in response to COVID-19; they are not permanent new rules. Once the national emergency ends, the cafeteria plan rules will revert to the pre-COVID-19 rules. This temporary change in the rules may create confusion and employee expectations that the more relaxed rules are permanent. Prudent employers will use annual enrollment communications to address the temporary nature of these rules, if they adopted them. What is your communication strategy to explain the post-COVID-19 election change rules to employees?
This is a preview of Priorities and Perspectives, a monthly publication produced by Gallagher's Compliance Consulting Practice. For five more action steps to help you focus your annual enrollment compliance efforts in 2020, contact your Gallagher representative or visit our Compliance Resources page for the full version of this month's edition.