10 Questions to Ask Your Benefits Broker Before Your Open Enrollment Planning Meeting

Originally published 6/21/21, Updated on 5/6/24

It’s that time of year again: open enrollment season! That means you’re likely scheduling your annual planning meetings with your benefits broker. 

And while brokers are always a helpful resource during this busy season, they’ve never been more crucial than right now. In 2024, your benefits consultants may just be the key to open enrollment success. Why? 

Well, in a time where budgets are tight, HR teams are smaller, and you’re generally doing more with less, benefits brokers can serve as an extension of your organization. As we discovered during Engage 2024, benefits consultants have a lot more to offer than you might think, and they can help with anything from healthcare cost reduction to employee engagement. 

“We’re redefining brokers to become an extension of the HR team—from focusing solely on the renewal process to a true partnership where brokers have capabilities and responsibilities at every step of the annual benefits year. It’s a really healthy thing.”
Brandon Weber
CEO & Co-Founder, Nava Benefits

So as you start planning together for this year’s open enrollment, here are 10 requests you can make to get the most out of your broker relationship. 

From open enrollment to year-round engagement, ALEX has your back.

1. Ask for a “touch-base” schedule (to prevent surprises)

When brokers get busy, they can be hard to reach. And if you’re not checking in with your broker, there’s a good chance something will slip through the cracks.

Ask your broker to create a “touch-base” schedule that takes you through the end of open enrollment. Your schedules should include: 

  • Short monthly updates
  • A longer session a few weeks before open enrollment starts
  • A final recap a week or so after open enrollment ends. 

You can touch base by phone or email—but the quicker these dates get on your calendars, the more secure your collaboration will feel.

2. Ask for a simple summary of the financial report

If you’ve never seen a benefits financial report, you’re in for a treat—especially if you’re self-insured. Imagine if a truck full of accounting spreadsheets hit a train carrying the world’s biggest financial PowerPoint presentation. Seriously, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the raw data, especially if you don’t have a sense of the big picture.

But the bottom line is that auditing your benefits financials is one of the most important ways to make sure you’re not overspending this year. According to experts like Brandon Weber, CEO of Nava Benefits, most carrier bills contain errors that increase costs and liability for employers. 

So ask your broker for regular financial reports and audits. You can even ask them to summarize it in a one-pager that’s easy to share with others at your organization.

"We've audited thousands of vendor and carrier bills. 99% of those bills have a material financial error, where an employer is either paying for someone's benefits when they're no longer at the company, or an employee is not enrolled in the benefits they chose, creating liability for the employer and frustration for the employee."
Brandon Weber
CEO & Co-Founder, Nava Benefits

3. Ask about benefits compliance updates

Federal, state, and local laws change all the time. Even the most proactive HR leaders may miss a new regulation here and there. Additionally, knowing how other leaders handle regulatory changes can help you make informed decisions. Here’s where a broker comes in handy! 

Before your open enrollment planning meeting, make sure your broker is up-to-date on current benefits compliance. Tell them you want to discuss how any major changes may impact your benefits strategy for the upcoming year (and beyond). For example, increased insurance reimbursement for telehealth services may make it worthwhile to expand that benefit. Or, new government policies for family leave may mean your once generous policy now only meets the bare minimum—and could put you at a competitive disadvantage.

4. Ask them to help you build a business case

If you’re making bigger-than-usual changes to your benefits package this year in an effort to contain healthcare spending, your C-suite might have some questions. They’ll want to know what changes you’re planning to make, how they’ll affect your employees, and what impact they’ll make to the company bottom line.

But you don’t have to build a business case on your own. Ask your benefits consultant to help you build a presentation for your leadership team, explaining all of the changes you plan to make with the data to back up your decision-making. Brokers can help you anticipate the questions you’ll get, and arm you with proactive responses where needed.

"Reframing the renewal process as, 'What does this look like for the executive team?' leads to a different set of questions that are answered—transforming from a huge spreadsheet of discreet data points to a set of statements around the goals we have for the year, and where we're going."
Brandon Weber
CEO & Co-Founder, Nava Benefits

5. Ask about additional services included with their fee

It’s a given that your broker will handle your vendors, negotiate prices, and provide reports. But many offer additional or ancillary services included in their fee—services you may not be taking advantage of. For example, some brokers provide HR specialist support, salary market data, wellness experts, and basic healthcare guidance from their on-site attorneys.

Ask your benefits broker to email you a list of any other services included with the existing fee. If any sound interesting or helpful make sure to utilize them!

6. Ask about streamlining the enrollment process

A good employee benefits broker should help your company digitally streamline open enrollment. The last thing you need is a cumbersome process managed by email and spreadsheet—or, worse, pen and paper. That’s the stuff of HR nightmares, plus your employees don’t like it, either.

It’s important to ask your broker how they digitally support open enrollment, from tracking and record-keeping to employee education and communication. Make sure the broker’s workflows are consistent with industry best practices as well as your own company culture and employee expectations. While you want to ensure a digital-first approach to open enrollment, you also need to incorporate a human touch to counterbalance your tech. 

Your employees learn and consume information in different ways. As such, you may need to balance in-person sessions for your hybrid workers versus webinars for those who are remote. And that’s where your broker can assist! The more that your benefits broker helps to automate the open enrollment process, the smoother it will be for everyone.

7. Ask about upgrading your benefits communication

The sooner you talk to your broker about benefits communication, the better. You don’t want to be scrambling to find and implement a new software solution or platform just before open enrollment.

Ask that your broker comes to the meeting ready to talk about two communication tools that would be a good fit for your company. Ideally, these tools would help your employees make smarter choices during open enrollment AND provide education throughout the year. If something sounds promising, ask to be included in a full demo as soon as possible, so you’re equipped to make a decision ASAP.

Jellyvision Custom Solutions helps tackle benefits communication via personalized emails, texts, and printed materials—all at your fingertips!

8. Ask about year-round benefits management support

Your employee benefits communication plan should cover the full year, not just the weeks leading up to open enrollment. One of the questions to ask your benefits broker is how they can support this year-round communication plan through ongoing engagement, education, and decision-making.

This support is critical. Think about the major life events that require employees to make important benefits decisions outside of open enrollment: marriage, divorce, childbirth or adoption, medical diagnosis, home purchases, retirement planning, and so on. These life events happen at all times and require 24/7 benefits knowledge and support. Knowing how you can lean on your employee benefits broker outside of open enrollment will help you give employees the help they need, when they need it.

"The benefits broker is the right stakeholder to guide employees year-round. We sit outside of the internal bubble, and they can ask us questions that they might not be comfortable asking HR teams."
Brandon Weber
CEO & Co-Founder, Nava Benefits

9. Ask for recommendations beyond next year

While long-term planning shouldn’t be the core focus of your open enrollment strategy meeting, it should play a part. Some benefits offerings require several years to introduce and garner significant engagement before you see an ROI. 

Moreover, every company has long-term goals. No matter whether you’re planning to enter new markets, go public, or double your headcount, you need to think about how your business strategy will impact benefits offerings. What benefits will help you attract top talent, increase your valuation, or compete in a new geographic area? The sooner you ask your benefits broker, the sooner they can lay out a long-term employee benefits strategy.

10. Ask about new technologies and tools

Remember our advice to ask about the additional services included with your fee, and anything that will streamline the enrollment process? Technology should be a big part of that conversation.

Ultimately, you need to make sure you’re using all the tools at your disposal. If you’re using a benefits engagement platform, are you optimizing all features? For instance, is there a mobile app, chat functionality, or additional resources? If you have an established solution, ask your broker if there are new features for this year’s open enrollment. In addition, is your broker positioned to help onboard employees?

And it’s not just about getting the most out of your tools, either. Brokers are experts in technology vendor administration and integration, too—so they can take the lead on helping you set up new technologies. 

"We see HR teams working in the mud around setting up and managing vendor and technology integrations, and that's really something your broker should be handling."
Brandon Weber
CEO & Co-Founder, Nava Benefits

Drive smarter choices with the right tools 

At Jellyvision, we know how the right technology can make a big difference in open enrollment. ALEX Benefits Counselor uses a simple one-on-one conversation to understand employees’ benefit needs and provide recommendations for medical, dental, vision, and voluntary benefits offerings—no matter how complex the plan design. ALEX uses data-driven decision support powered by predictive analytics and behavioral science to offer a personalized experience for each individual—something no other platform can offer. (Learn more about how we stack up to the competition). 

With ALEX, you’ll have what you need to support employees at all stages of life. Whether an individual is just starting their career or planning for retirement, ALEX provides your employees with a hyper-personalized benefits experience that helps people choose, use, and appreciate their benefits.

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