Although next year’s open enrollment and annual enrollment periods are still several months away and 2021’s OEP has been extended, it’s not too early to plan. As you determine your staffing strategy for OEP/AEP, there are several considerations to keep in mind. We reached out to a few health plans to hear firsthand how they’ll be approaching enrollment and the tips they’ve uncovered for success.
Don’t wait until the summer to plan for OEP/AEP. Consider your internal team’s bandwidth and areas where you may require additional support. Think about potential workload fluctuations and contingency plans for various scenarios. Often, top talent is contracted several months before OEP begins, and acquiring appropriate licensures can slow the process even further. Having the right team in place is key. “Choosing the right people to be on your team from day one is crucial. You need to have folks who embody your company’s values and believe in your products,” shared a health plan based in the Northeast.
Be strategic with your resources.
Will your internal staff be stretched too thin during OEP? Are there ways interim resources could help them remain productive and avoid burnout? A regional health plan shared the following about last year’s experience when interim support was finally brought in to help, "Our internal staff said it was one of the best years they can recall: a smooth process, great staff and wonderful communication meant our team could focus on the tasks at hand. Previous years were more demanding; even executives were asked to step in and take calls on occasion, since they could not find the right local support.”
Work with a knowledgeable staffing partner.
Whether or not you have partnered with a staffing firm in the past, take a fresh look at the firm’s breadth and depth of experience. Firms that are well-networked within the industry and truly understand your business and the unique challenges being faced during OEP/AEP will be more likely to provide the right talent when you need it. As a field marketing organization shared about their experience, “The greatest value add was finding a significant number of skilled agents in a short amount of time to fill our needs.”
Proactively seek areas of improvement.
As you make your plans for next year’s enrollment periods, talk with your team about what could be done to increase efficiency. Are there any potential lapses in processes or communication? “We could improve by getting a better understanding of the implications of agents being previously contracted with other carriers and how easy it will or won’t be to obtain a release,” shared the field marketing organization. The Northeastern health plan shared the following advice, “Having one electronic source of truth that houses all of the resources your team will need through OEP will keep everyone on the same page, and allow them to be feel empowered to help themselves and their teammates.”
Stay ahead of industry best practices.
In addition to providing qualified talent, the right staffing firm can help you understand how other companies are handling similar experiences. For instance, if forecasting is a concern due to the pandemic, your staffing firm can help you better understand how other companies are responding and the tactics that are and are not working.
Address onboarding needs early on.
Successful onboarding takes time and consideration. Prior to this year’s OEP, reflect on what has been successful in past years and how you may be able to smooth any potential bumps. For instance, onboarding forms may need to go through an agency and be reviewed by legal and human resources, in addition to being signed and returned by the employee. Gain an understanding of employees’ past and current licensure to ensure they’re able to be productive right away. From a technology standpoint, and especially in today’s remote environment, equipment will need to be purchased, prepared and often shipped. Consider the specific systems employees will need to access and ensure they are up and running prior to an employee’s start date.
Consider using incentives.
During times of heavy workloads, it’s even more important to build a sense of camaraderie and energy among employees, no matter their employment status. Build opportunities for recognition into your team culture and encourage healthy competition. “Sharing weekly enrollment updates and ‘top sellers’ among your team sparks healthy competition through OEP, and helps sales agents hold themselves more accountable,” shared the Northeastern health plan.
There are several considerations to take into account as you prepare for 2022’s OEP/AEP. By identifying your staffing needs, reaching out to the right partner, and working through licensures and other potential hurdles early on, you’ll be prepared to best service your members this fall.