Broker carrying a briefcase and face mask.

Open enrollment looks a little different for Brokers this year. With continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, planning Group benefits for 2021 has been especially challenging. Many processes have gone virtual in an effort to practice social distancing and keep business moving. Below, we outlined some of the primary ways COVID-19 has affected the 2021 open enrollment season.

Transition to Virtual Group Benefits Meetings

Group benefits meetings have always been a key component in a Brokers’ overall open enrollment strategy. Often conducted face-to-face, these meetings serve as great opportunities to better understand your Groups’ needs, help them weigh coverage options and enroll in a plan. One of the main challenges facing Brokers this open enrollment season is learning how to give Groups the attention they need to make the best decisions possible, while maintaining safe practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For many Brokers, this means conducting Group benefits meetings virtually. In fact, only 33 percent of Brokers plan to do in-person meetings this year, down from 49 percent last year.

Our advice for making the most out of these virtual meetings? Don’t just “phone it in.” Consider leveraging video conferencing technology to humanize the enrollment experience for your Small Groups. This will allow members to put a face to your name and give them the opportunity to ask any questions they may have in real-time. Additionally, you’ll have the ability to share your screen, so you can present your proposals and show Groups side-by-side comparisons of plans and their rates.

Changes to Group Size

Due to the economic shutdowns across the country, millions of Employers were forced to temporarily lay off workers earlier this year. While many of those Employees have since returned to work, the number of people who have permanently lost their job climbed to 4.5 million in September. Unfortunately, this means you may be seeing a decrease in the number of Employees in your Groups, which could affect their rates.

In these uncertain times, it will be wise to keep a close eye on your Small Groups’ activity. To stay up to date, FormFire’s Business Intelligence Reporting feature enables Brokers to see a snapshot of the number of Employees in each Group and their renewal date. Additionally, you’ll be able to see which Groups are approaching renewal as well as provide your Groups with a better picture of their health.

Health Plan Renewal Rates are High

As previously mentioned, these tough economic times have been challenging for Small Groups. In an effort to fight rising healthcare costs, some Groups shopped around this season to see if a new plan might equate to lower premiums.

Ultimately, though, many opted to renew their current plans, rather than make any drastic changes, as a way to maintain some type of normalcy in this unnormal time. According to Employee Benefit News, “Less than 10 percent of Employers recently surveyed say that they will make any change to their benefit offerings, indicating that employers want to maintain the status quo and keep benefits as a stable component of their overall total compensation package.”

To streamline the renewal process, FormFire’s Group Plan Assign tool enables Brokers to renew plans for Groups in bulk. With this tool, Brokers can assign plans to Employees who are not waiving coverage with just a few clicks.

Digitizing the Group Enrollment Experience

Along with a transition to virtual meetings, many paper-based processes have now become digitized. Especially in today’s environment, it’s important to have an efficient digital solution for benefits enrollment and management, instead of relying on outdated, paper-based methods. According to Employee Benefit News, “Many Brokers have begun to leverage different technology platforms that are available in the marketplace, with some also making them available to their Employer clients.”

Platforms like FormFire have been proven to streamline the enrollment process from quoting to enrollment for Brokers and their Small Groups. From collecting medical information to pulling rates from Carriers to presenting quotes to Groups, FormFire has everything Brokers need to keep business moving, even in these uncertain times.

Are you ready to make the switch to online benefits enrollment technology? Contact FormFire today to learn more or to request a free demo.