How to Improve Efficiency During Open Enrollment

September 24, 2012 ( – Open enrollment is an optimal time to distribute federal notices at once rather than throughout the year to streamline the administrative process, speakers said during a Mercer webinar.

By Corie Russell | September 24, 2012
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The HIPAA notice of privacy practices, for example, requires that employers send a reminder to enrollees at least once every three years saying the notice is available on request. Although this notice is not required to be sent to employees annually, adding it to the open enrollment materials makes things easier. “If you do so, you’ve sort of eliminated this three-year [HIPAA] reminder requirement,” said Mike Sinkeldam, principal and compliance consultant with Mercer's health and benefits business.

Open enrollment can also satisfy requirements for summary plan descriptions (SPDs), summary of material modifications (SMMs), summary of material reductions (SMRs), HIPAA special enrollment rights notice, CMS creditable coverage notice (must be out by October 15) , the initial COBRA notice, the USERRA (military leave) notice and certain state reporting mandates.

Employers must distribute new materials this year, many a result of health care reform. Mercer thinks it is best practice to send these materials at one time during open enrollment, rather than “piecemealing” them through the year, he added.

These materials include:

  •  Health care FSA limit at $2,500 for the 2013 plan year; 
  •  Newly updated state children’s health insurance program (CHIP) notice effective July 31, 2012; 
  •  Women’s preventative health requirements for non-grandfathered plans;
  •  New Medicare tax on high-wage earners; 
  •  Explanation on the value of coverage on employees w-2 and that amount is not taxable; and
  •  Explanation on medical loss ratio (MLR) and how it will be used.