The open enrollment period is not only a time for employers and worksite brokers to inform employees of the plans available to them and of any changes that have occurred within those plans; it is also a time for employees to ask questions and gain more information about what plans may be right for them. For worksite producers, providing employees with the support they need to make informed decisions is an important part of the process.

Informational meetings by insurance professionals and comprehensive enrollment materials are critical. Employers can either host a formal presentation made by the carrier or have more informal sessions where carrier representatives are available to speak with employees. The agent or carrier representative attends the open enrollment meetings to present the plan and answer questions about the benefits being offered.

Enrollment kits are typically given out during these meetings. Ideally, these provide comprehensive information about the benefits offered as well as for what portion of the cost the employees will be responsible. If it is a Section 125 plan, employees also need to learn what benefits are available on a pre-tax basis.

So that employees can make informed decisions, be sure they have adequate time to review the materials and consult with family members about changes to their benefits.

In today’s economy, out-of-pocket costs are playing a larger role in their decision to enroll in or to stay in a plan. Whatever the reason, it is important to give employees all the latest information before they make any decision, so they can get the most out of their plan.

For example, some vision plan terminations can be avoided by explaining to employees that the particular vision plan being offered allows members the option of going to an out-of-network provider for exams, up to a set amount, then going in-network for their materials. This structure allows them to still benefit from the in-network rates.

Take advantage of the enrollment period by introducing employees to other types of benefits beyond medical coverage. In today’s challenging economy, employees are not only looking to save money, but also to provide themselves and their families with some sense of security. Equally as important as medical coverage, ancillary benefits can help keep employees healthy by making it possible to detect early signs of deadly diseases.

For instance, a routine exam performed by an optometrist can identify signs of glaucoma, diabetes, vascular disorders, high blood pressure and even brain tumors.

Dental benefits, too, can identify underlying health problems before they become serious. Regular dental visits can help diagnose oral cancer, for instance, and recognize warning signs for contributing factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Be sure to point out to employers that using preventive benefits such as dental and vision can have a significant impact on quality of life and productivity in the worksite. Emphasize, too, that offering these benefits can increase their recruitment and retention of workers while boosting employees’ overall satisfaction.

While some benefits focus on maintaining employees’ health, others are specifically designed to help employees when they are not well. To protect against future financial risks, many employees have been prompted by the current economy to take steps to determine their household’s needs for life insurance, disability insurance and long term care insurance. At enrollment meetings, help employees add up their monthly cost of living and compare it to their current disability coverage to make sure it will pay all of their bills in case the need arises.

Enrollment meetings are also the place to highlight to employees the threat that having little or no life insurance coverage poses to their families’ financial security. And make sure that those who already have coverage take the time to check their coverage amounts and listed beneficiaries to make sure their families will be adequately protected.

The open enrollment period provides a perfect time to refresh employers’ and employees’ memories about the benefits of adding ancillary products. Whether employer-paid or offered as voluntary benefits, they are a key part of employee wellness and overall health. Regardless of how they are implemented, ancillary benefits are a great way to provide a brighter future for employees.