In about a month, I will celebrate my 15-year anniversary. Over these past 15 years, I have learned how to effectively communicate through good times and bad, budget appropriately and to better understand people and their wants and needs. People? Oh, did you think I was talking about my marriage? No, I was talking about my second love, open enrollment!

As many of you are going live with your 2013 open enrollment within the next two months, I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve learned over the past 14 years that don’t pop up on your typical open enrollment to-do list:

Don’t forget your not-so-obvious groups. I'll never forget the communications conversation I had with my manager during my first open enrollment. It went something like this:

Me: “I have the open enrollment communication packets prepared to send to the employees and COBRA-qualified beneficiaries.”

My manager: “Great, but what about those in the COBRA waiting period, employees on leave of absence, and QMCSO (Qualified Medical Child Support) recipients?”

Oops! Moral of the story: Don’t forget to send open enrollment packets to your unobvious group (a.k.a., anyone eligible for your group health insurance program).

2013 is the year of healthcare reform communications galore! Between the new Summary of Benefits of Coverage requirement, the health flexible spending account limit reduction to $2,500, the introduction of free women’s preventive care (for non-grandfathered plans), the state exchange communications requirement, the 2013 Medicare tax increase for high wage earners, and the Form W-2 benefits cost reporting requirements, there is a good chance that 2013 will be a very busy health care reform communications year. Bottom line: You’ll need to decide how much of this information you want (and need) to communicate during open enrollment and how to do it in a way that will reach all target audiences.

Perform a post-open enrollment QMCSO audit. I add this one because, unfortunately, I’ve seen it before — employees dropping court-ordered dependent children from their health insurance benefits during open enrollment. That said, if you have any QMCSO recipients, you’ll want to perform an audit after open enrollment to determine whether all of the employees responsible for maintaining coverage for those dependents have done so into the 2013 plan year. If not, you’ll want to approach the respective employee/s immediately.

Have a great 2013 open enrollment everyone!

Ed Bray is director of employee benefits for a major transportation company in Hawaii.

What’s on your open enrollment checklist? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments.

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