Most Employers to Use Passive Benefits Enrollment

July 26, 2011 ( - HighRoads’ latest industry survey on open enrollment reveals 71% of respondents conduct ‘passive’ versus ‘active’ enrollment practices, foregoing the opportunity to require employee annual plan selection.

HighRoads warned that passive enrollment can be a risky practice because participants can renew their coverage without truly examining their elections, and may end up with coverage that doesn’t truly meet their needs; however, the survey found getting employees to read annual enrollment materials still is a challenge. Two-thirds (65%) of employers that responded to the survey are using a variety of tactics to reach employees, including snail mail, e-mail and face-to-face communication.   

The majority of respondents (62%) are branding their enrollment material.  

HighRoads also found employees are overwhelmingly using electronic submissions to make their open enrollment choices. Some 73% of respondents said employees submit enrollments electronically. Only 13% of respondents use paper exclusively as an enrollment method. For the most part, these are smaller employers with fewer than 5,000 employees.   

HighRoads found 59% of respondents start three to seven months ahead in developing open enrollment content, while another 41% begin the process eight months to a year ahead. For the most part, larger employers with more than 5,000 employees are taking the longest lead time – eight months to a year – to prepare for open enrollment. Some 60% of surveyed companies in the 100,000 and up employee range said they took eight to 11 months to prepare. In the smaller company category – fewer than 5,000 employees – 74% said they started to prepare three to seven months ahead.   

Despite the increased complexity of health benefits plans and regulations, HighRoads found most respondents appear to be tackling open enrollment in house. Sixty-three percent indicated they do not use an enrollment company or a vendor to support enrollment functions.   

Almost all (97%) respondents reported that open enrollment consumes at least 50% of their time. Forty-one percent indicated that time constraints are the biggest challenge in preparing for open enrollment. Cost and drafting content were cited as a challenge by 47% of respondents.