Businessolver Blog

Annual Enrollment Horror Stories

Annual Enrollment Horror Stories
Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 by Rae Shanahan

It happens in every scary movie — that moment when the main character is running in the wrong direction, opening the wrong door, or backing into something that is definitely going to ruin her day.


And there you are on the other side of the screen, clutching your popcorn bowl, frantically waving at the victim to get her to turn around, run away, or HIDE!

Annual Enrollment can have the same kind of effect on an HR/benefits team. With so many moving parts, there are bound to be surprises, many of which will cause your heart to skip a beat. So, today we reach deep into the cobwebs to bring you some chilling tales of AE fails. But we’ll also provide some tips to prevent those horror stories from happening in the future.

So grab your flashlight and comfort blanket. It’s about to get spooky!

All Work And No Play A True Story of Horror

In The Shining, Jack Torrance’s writer’s block drove him mad. Decision paralysis like this can happen to your employees if you offer a new benefit package without the proper education. For example, let’s say you decide to offer an HDHP in partnership with an HSA account but don’t properly communicate the difference between that and a PPO to your employees.  

(Cue trailer voiceover) IN A WORLD OF POOR COMMUNICATION… an employee signs up for an HDHP because they are impressed by the price tag. In January, they break their leg and need very expensive care. Disgruntled by the cost, the employee takes to social media to complain about their healthcare coverage, creating a public relations nightmare. How can you avoid this scary situation?

  1. Try various types of communication tactics. Maybe you did send out a benefits brochure alerting your employees to your updated benefits offerings. But, like most modern workplaces that have five generations in the workforce, a brochure may not be the best way to communicate to, let’s say a Millennial employee. Take advantage of the communication channels your employees are most likely to use, such as email, text, and yes, even snail mail, to ensure they fully understand their options.
  2. Use a benefits recommendation engine. If your employees are frightened of an HDHP or they simply stay the course and never look at other options, you may consider implementing a benefits recommendation engine that assesses their lifestyle needs and provides a suggested approach to electing benefits. This is a great way for your employees to compare options, look at deductibles, and eventually make the right decision for their lifestyle.

The Curious Case of the Possessed Phones Your Team is Wearing Out

During Annual Enrollment, it can feel like you’re trying to beat back a million zombies infiltrating your shelter. You’re locked and loaded with your benefits knowledge, but you simply can’t keep up with the call volume and sheer number of questions coming in from your employees about their benefits. Plus, you still have your daily HR/benefits responsibilities to get to! AE is a time when your HR/benefits team can get burnt out. That can lead to bigger problems down the road. How can you combat this scary combination? Artificial intelligence.

  1. Don’t fear the witching hour. Sofia, our AI-enabled personal benefits assistant, isn’t afraid of the dark. In fact, she’s available 24/7, 365 to answer benefits questions, even in the middle of the coldest and scariest winter night. She can verify paperwork and identify important forms for our clients’ employees. Last year, Sofia assisted more than 10,000 of our members and saved them more than 35,000 minutes of wait time. And she didn’t even mind if they chewed on Halloween candy while talking to her.
  2. No silver bullets and wooden stakes? No problem. Let artificial intelligence be your secret weapon during AE and to your benefits strategy in general. AI can help with form processing, file distribution, compliance, and the automation of many otherwise manual processes. Instead of feeling like you’re about to be buried alive in paperwork during AE, you can sit back, relax, and let technology do its job.

How the House Became Haunted  An Employee Misses AE

We’ve heard the stories. Something tragic happens in a house somewhere, and next thing you know, it’s haunted. If an employee misses the annual enrollment deadline, everyone living in the same home could suffer, including loss of coverage for themselves and their family members, and the inability to change coverage if an emergency occurs. For your organization, it can impact productivity and result in added administrative burdens. As HR/benefits pros, we understand that due to legal limitations, there aren’t that many options available to those who miss the deadline. Don’t risk getting ghosted by employees who end up having to leave your organization to find benefits elsewhere. Try these simple solutions instead.

  1. Is the Nightmare before Christmas a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? Does it matter? Make use of all the annual observances to communicate with your employees about their benefits. Year-round communication can keep benefits top of mind, which can help your employees prepare psychologically for Annual Enrollment when it finally comes around. Campaigns can be pegged to anything — Labor Day, Independence Day, etc. All you need is a little creativity to remind employees that their benefits are working for them all year long.
  2. Avoid the scary soundtrack. Employees who miss the deadline are frightened enough as it is! Combat any potential decrease in their morale and/or loss of a valuable employee by providing opportunities for the employee to meet with HR to discuss options or planning better next year. Simply showing some empathy can go a long way.

We hope these stories will help you get through this spooky time of year. If you need more content to bolster your nerve, check out our Reality Based Leadership Series video Part 1 that can help prep your team for AE greatness.