Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: open enrollment

3 ways to rethink your employee benefits communication strategy

During your open enrollment period, you probably receive a flood of questions from your employees about their health benefits. But questions and confusion about benefits don’t begin and end with open enrollment. And for most companies, confusion about benefits is a major problem.

  • Only 39% of employees fully understood their company health insurance policies, according to a recent survey.
  • Nearly 20% of employees said they weren’t sure they understood the benefits they signed up for.
  • Almost half weren’t sure what their annual health coverage costs were.

The same survey found that this confusion about benefits can overwhelm employees, to the point that they often give up trying to understand them.

  • Nearly 20% of surveyed employees said they didn’t do any research before choosing their health benefits.
  • More than 90% of employees said they simply sign up for the same benefits year after year.

As a result, your employees may be spending too much to over-insure themselves, or conversely might be compromising their health by passing on important benefits to try to cut costs.

This confusion can be bad for your company’s bottom line as well, wasting available benefits and contributing to rising health care costs.

With is in mind, it might be time to rethink your benefits communication game.

Benefits communication: It’s not just for open enrollment anymore

Certainly, reaching out to employees about their benefits during open enrollment is always a good idea. But remember that your employees probably have questions and concerns about benefits throughout the year, and particularly when they have to use them. 

Look for opportunities to educate employees while benefits are on their mind.

  • At the beginning of the calendar or plan year, you can remind employees about new benefits available to them or that their new deductibles and maximums have reset
  • At the end of the calendar or plan year, you can encourage them to use their benefits before their deductibles and maximums reset
  • During the summer, you can suggest that employees with children take their kids to the dentist before they return to school
  • When employees move, or their office moves to a new area, you can offer them tips on how to find a nearby in-network dentist
  • When they experience a qualifying life event, such as getting married or having a baby, you can explain how to add a dependent to their dental plans

Help your employees help themselves

A single 20-something employee with a pet iguana is going to have very different health care needs than a married 50-year-old with a large family. What they might have in common, though, is their understanding of health care plans and their lingo — next to none.

So rather than simply mailing out printed plan guides that most employees don’t read anyway, find resources that target your employees and their unique dental plan needs to help them choose a plan that right for them.

  • For example, Delta Dental offers answers to frequently asked questions, which includes information about dental plans, such as the difference between PPO and DHMO-type plans, explanations of networks and orthodontic benefits and many other topics.
  • Delta Dental also offers helpful videos that explain Delta Dental plans, networks and more.

And be as transparent as possible with costs. If you haven’t already, share specifically how much employees will pay when they enroll in different plans.

Make benefits a two-way street

As you strive to better educate employees about their benefits, don’t miss the opportunity to have them educate you as well. Given the chance, employees might provide you with valuable information about what they want — and don’t want — in their benefits. Give employees multiple forums to provide you with feedback. A few possibilities include:

  • Q&A sessions
  • Polls
  • Surveys

The questions and comments you receive can help you tailor your benefits communication strategies by uncovering new issues, such questions about virtual dental care options.

Remember, benefits communication is about more than open enrollment. Building a strong communications strategy is important for the health of both your employees and your company. By creating effective, personalized and tech-friendly communications, you’ll potentially save money and time, and ensure that your employees get the benefits they want and need.

Open enrollment: Resources and what’s new

Open enrollment can be difficult for employees to navigate, but they won’t have to go it alone. Flyers, videos and more are available to help your employees understand their coverage options, choose the right plans for their needs and make the most of their benefits.

What’s new

New initiatives and resources available for this year’s open enrollment season.

Virtual booths

If your company has virtual open enrollment software, you can get all the benefits of having an in-person event virtually. With flyers, presentations and more, a virtual booth session is the perfect educational source for employees who can’t make it into the office. (Virtual booth sessions with a live Delta Dental representative require a minimum of 100 attendees.)

Quality ratings for dentists

Choosing the right dentist can be tricky. The new DentaQual rating system provides a simple and objective rating system based on a dentist’s past performance. That makes it easy for employees to find dentists that deliver effective, appropriate and fairly priced service.

Virtual dentistry

Two options are available for employees who are looking for teledentistry tools: Delta Dental – Virtual Consult (PDF) is a video-based app for members to consult with a Delta Dental dentist live, and Toothpic (PDF) is a photo-based app that lets members submit photos of problem areas for professional analysis.

Get check-ups remotely

Callback assist

When your employees contact Delta Dental’s Customer Service, they can now get a convenient callback instead of having to wait on the line.

A redesigned website

In 2020, we rolled out a whole new design for our website and refreshed its content. This new design makes finding answers easier, whether choosing a plan, understanding benefits or just looking for tips on maintaining a healthy smile.

  • Delta Dental members resources. Help members plan visits, know what to expect at the dentist’s office and what to do after they complete their visits. There’s also useful information about value-added benefits, like virtual dentistry and preferred pricing on LASIK and hearing aids, and a wellness library with articles, videos, recipes and more.
  • Delta Dental virtual dentistry. Understand teledentistry and the differences between Virtual Consult and Toothpic.
  • Smile On. If you have employees who may be retiring or ineligible for full-time benefits, Smile On is a great way for them to get affordable coverage that meets their needs.

New video content

These videos provide short and direct explanations of Delta Dental’s plans and features. To share these videos on your website or intranet, just click the videos to navigate to YouTube. Below the video you wish to share, click Share > Embed. Then copy and paste the code into your webpage or intranet site. 

These videos also feature Spanish closed captioning. To turn on Spanish captions, click the settings symbol (the cogwheel icon), then click Subtitles/CC and choose Spanish from the list.

Delta Dental PPO™ network 

All about the Delta Dental PPO network

Delta Dental PPO and Delta Dental Premier® networks

Get to know Delta Dental’s PPO and Premier networks

DeltaCare® USA 

Welcome to your DeltaCare USA plan

Online resources

Your online resources from Delta Dental

Online resources including the Cost Estimator

The Cost Estimator and other tools form Delta Dental

Resources for your employees

Multilingual support

Material in other languages, including Spanish and Chinese, is available on request. Delta Dental members can also get translation and accessibility services through the Language Assistance Program.

Material to share with employees

Check out the open enrollment benefits resources page for flyers that you can download and print to share with employees. These flyers cover:

  • Plan basics
  • Using a Delta Dental plan
  • Understanding dentist networks
  • Accessing online resources
  • Orthodontic coverage (braces)
  • Individual coverage
  • Value-added features

Even if your company hasn’t returned to the office, open enrollment doesn’t need to be a challenge. Online resources make choosing the right plan and making the most of it easier than ever before!

Has COVID-19 changed open enrollment forever?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused long-lasting changes to our priorities as a society and as individuals. From canceled events, working from home and separation from friends and family, employees and employers have had to adapt. It’s no wonder that the uncertainty of the pandemic has created changes in open enrollment.

Greater focus on the whole family

In the past year and a half, many adults became caregivers for their parents and took on education roles for their children while also working full-time. Employees are looking for benefits that extend to their family members and benefits that make the care of their family easier, like family and medical leave, assisted living coverage and child care coverage. Getting the whole family covered even extends to furry friends; the number of pets insured in North America has increased 23% since 2019.

Mental health services are more important than ever

The stress and difficulty of the pandemic have taken a toll on mental health. The percentage of adults in the U.S. who reported symptoms of anxiety and depression increased from 36% to 42% between August 2020 and February 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before the pandemic, Americans only chose virtual options for mental health care 20% of the time. After the pandemic started, the American Psychiatric Association saw their own members’ usage of telehealth services jump to 85%.

Employers are responding by offering mental health benefits that include access to online resources and apps that address stress and difficulty sleeping. About 70% of employers planned to start, continue or expand investment in mental health resources in 2021, according to a survey by McKinsey & Company. Employers who invest in mental health coverage get results. Almost 86% of employees who are treated for depression symptoms show substantial improvement in work performance, according to one study.

Employees expect to keep using telehealth options

While virtual visits won’t completely replace in-person visits any time soon, they’re definitely sticking around. Telehealth visits spiked during March 2020, but there were 10 times more telehealth visits in March 2021 than in March 2020, according to a market report.

Employees are using telehealth services and, in many cases, they expect to keep using it. In some cases, patients rated their interactions with their providers higher when they had virtual appointments than in-person.

To appeal to a variety of employee preferences, Delta Dental offers two different kinds of virtual dentistry: video-based and photo-based.

Virtual events preferred over in-person

With many employees still working from home and continually changing safety recommendations, in-person enrollment events are still being pushed online. Luckily, virtual enrollment has advantages for you and your employees. Instead of fielding phone calls and emails all day, you can update your website in real time to address common questions. Your employees can research and select benefits without having to keep track of physical papers or even leave the house.

What do successful virtual open enrollment events look like? A study by Flimp Communications concluded that a high-performing open enrollment campaign includes:

  • Microsites. These websites are customized to fulfill your group’s specific benefits needs with unique visuals, video and copy and can be used to address employees’ frequently asked questions.
  • Video. Both short-form and long-form video have a place in your campaign. A short-form video may simply be a quick, supplemental explainer and a long-form video would be more detailed and available for employees on demand.
  • Links. Linking out to your enrollment portal, to helpful PDFs, contact pages or financial-wellness portals helps employees sign up for and best utilize their benefits.
  • Decision support. Tools that collect all key benefits information into one place and then make recommendations based on algorithms or questionnaires had higher-than-average engagement.
  • Analytics. With real-time analytics, you and your team can adjust to help employees answer questions online. When you know what drives traffic, what people want, and when people want it, you’ll be even better prepared for next time.

The pros and cons of virtual events

Technology has its limits, however. The Pew Research Center found that only 26% of internet users aged 65 years or older felt very confident when using electronics to get things done online. If all your materials are online, make sure they’re easy to find for all employees, regardless of skill with technology. That means clearly labeling links and having logical paths through your website, as well as making sure all materials can be easily downloaded and viewed without special software.

In that same vein, virtual open enrollment gives you the opportunity to make materials accessible to employees with disabilities. Gaps in accessibility can leave individuals with visual, hearing and motor disabilities unable to make informed decisions about their health care.

Open enrollment changes motivated by COVID-19 may be here to stay. Adapt your open enrollment offerings to serve employees’ needs during and beyond the pandemic. Being flexible and responsive helps ensure your employees understand their benefits for the year ahead and are able to get the coverage they need.

Expert advice on benefits open enrollment

Are you looking for fresh ideas to make open enrollment events for your employees more engaging? Or do you need Delta Dental-specific open enrollment tips? If so, have no fear. We enlisted the help of some of our stellar account service staff to deliver tips and tricks to make this year your best-ever open enrollment period.

Open enrollment strategies for any organization

The best advice for engaging your workforce to enroll in benefits? Spice it up! Make open enrollment something they can learn from, and something they’re motivated to actively participate in.

If you’re hosting a health or benefits fair, incent your employees to participate. You can use a world traveler theme and issue each attendee a passport to wellness. Provide each vendor a distinct passport stamp, and encourage employees to fill their passport with stamps before exiting the event. You can even enter full passport holders into a raffle for a prize. They’ll come intrigued, and leave with the information they need to make educated benefits decisions that could save them (and your organization) benefits dollars.

You can also use a scavenger hunt for your fair. Provide attendees with question cards for each vendor, and task them with finding the right answer. Score each attendee’s card and give them a prize or recognition for being a benefits all-star!

If these concepts don’t work for you, or if you’re pressed for time, open enrollment newsletters can also help deliver helpful benefits information. You can highlight the plans offered in the coming year, call out any important changes and allow vendors to link to their websites or other resources for more information.

Open enrollment tips for Delta Dental clients

If you’re one of our valued clients, here are some Delta Dental-specific tips to streamline your enrollment.

In addition to sharing any resources you create, encourage enrollees to check out our website and register for online services. When your enrollees have access to their benefits information at their fingertips, it’s a win-win for everyone.

If you have any last-minute enrollment updates, additions or terminations, make your changes using our online Eligibility Management Application (EMA).*

For more information about managing your Delta Dental plan, visit the administrators section of our website.


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*Access to EMA is only available for mid-size and large employer groups. Pooled groups should consult their plan’s administrator for more information on eligibility and enrollment updates.

Pass the cranberries — and these enrollee notices!

With the holiday season upon us, it can be easy for things to get lost in the hustle and bustle. Be sure that educating new enrollees — and reminding current enrollees — about their rights isn’t one of them.

Federal and state laws require groups to notify enrollees about enrollee rights and privacy practices.1 The good news is, we’ve made it easy for you to share this information.

You can find the notices on our new administrator web pages. Enrollees can also view and download each notice on our website. Additionally, during open enrollment we provide groups with an enrollee flyer summarizing all of the notices.

Please share the notices with current enrollees annually, and with all new enrollees within 30 days of eligibility. 

Not sure how to share? Here are some tips:

  • Post the notices on your company Intranet
  • Email employees a link to the notices
  • Place copies of the notices in common areas, or in the HR area
  • Include copies of the notices in your next company mailing

If you or enrollees have any questions about the notices, you can call 866–530-9675call.

Now relax, and enjoy that second helping of stuffing. And if you need a little encouragement getting into the holiday spirit, be sure to check out our fall issue of Grin!, Delta Dental’s free oral health e‑magazine.

 

1 Self-funded groups are not required to share Delta Dental’s enrollee notices, and may opt to use their own notices; however, these notices cannot be in conflict with Delta Dental’s practices. If you have questions about your notices, please contact your Account Manager.

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