Health insurance brokers succeed or fail based on their grasp of open enrollment. To the extent they understand how open enrollment works and are able to prepare for it, a broker's business will be defined. Those who get it tend to book more business than those who do not.
As a new broker, open enrollment may be completely foreign to you. It is time to change that. There are three key things you need to know about it that will get you off on the right foot. These are:
- A clear definition of open enrollment
- When open enrollment begins and end
- How to prepare for open enrollment year-round.
Keep reading to learn more about these topics. Again, the success of your business depends on how well you understand and prepare for open enrollment.
1. Open Enrollment Defined
Due to the nature of our private healthcare system, health insurance policies are generally offered on a 12-month basis. Companies have the opportunity to make changes to their benefits packages for the coming year in the weeks prior to their renewal dates. Likewise, employees have the opportunity to modify their benefits during the same period. This period is known as open enrollment.
Open enrollment serves the purpose of giving health insurance brokers, employers, and employees enough time to anticipate changes to benefits packages and, where necessary, modify said benefits accordingly. It is only during open enrollment that modifications can be made.
2. When Open Enrollment Begins and Ends
There is no set time or date for the start or end of open enrolment. Companies and their health insurance providers have the freedom to set dates as they see fit. As a general rule however, health insurance companies do their best to give employers and employees 2 to 4 weeks to modify benefits.
If a company's policy follows the calendar year, meaning a start date of January 1 and an end date of December 31, it is typical for open enrollment to begin sometime in mid-to-late November. Under such a scenario, open enrollment could end anywhere between mid-December and the end of the year.
3. How to Prepare for Open Enrollment
As a new broker, you may be tempted to use the first and second quarters of the year to relax and catch your breath after having worked extremely hard during the third and fourth quarters of the previous year. However, you are better off using the entire year to prepare for the next open enrollment.
In a nutshell, here is what you can do in each quarter:
- First Quarter – Assess the previous year. Look at your technology, practices, policies, etc. Address any weak spots you encountered during the previous year and strengthen them. Strong points from the previous year can be evaluated for improvements.
- Second Quarter – Research what is coming down the pike for the new year. Typically, this means looking at things such as premium projections, changes in carrier plans, and adjustments that clients might anticipate making.
- Third Quarter – Reach out to carriers, groups, and individual clients during the third quarter. This is the time to begin setting up meetings and preparing presentations. It is also an ideal time to get preliminary information off to clients.
- Fourth Quarter – Quote and book your business during the fourth quarter. This is the busiest time of year, so prepare to work a bit harder.
- Open enrollment is to health insurance brokers what tax season is to accountants. The sooner you master it, the sooner you will be on the way