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Open Enrollment for Union Employees: How to Communicate Members’ Options Effectively

By Deborah Blumberg | Oct 11, 2018

Letting open enrollment for union employees pass by without proper action risks some major consequences, from members ending up without health insurance to losing out on retirement savings. But what's the most effective way to stress to members that open enrollment should be a priority?

How to Get Information on Open Enrollment to Members

Ensuring that members you don't see every day or who may be spread out across several locations have the same access to information regarding open enrollment can be a challenge. Paper mailings risk being recycled unread — or never reaching members who may have changed addresses.

This education is crucial, though. Only about half of workers said they understood their health benefits in 2017. To keep open enrollment for union employees going smoothly, consider these three ways to communicate with members.

  • Host a call. Members may be spread out geographically, but they can unite technologically. Schedule a brief phone or video call for members and use that time to outline the decisions they'll need to make during open enrollment in order to avoid getting stuck with a plan that doesn't fit their needs. If participation seems like it might be low, add incentives like raffling off prizes during the call. Announce the incentives ahead of time to get more members to dial in.
  • Send frequent emails. During open enrollment, benefits should be on members' minds. Gently remind them about their choices — and the deadline for making them — in a weekly (or even daily, as deadlines approach) email. Keep messages brief. In every email, include clear, concise instructions on how to enroll in a plan, as well as login instructions and links to the union's online benefits platform. Also consider including a visual countdown to the deadline. Be upbeat but firm in your messaging; sending threatening messages or stern warnings about the risks of missing open enrollment will antagonize and alienate members, not support them.
  • Designate a dedicated resource. Some members may have complicated questions that aren't easily answered over email. Others might need clarification on certain policies. Set up a designated resource they can reach out to, perhaps a board member who's well-versed in the union's benefits offerings or a representative from the insurance company. Set a two-hour period at intervals — maybe a few times a week — during which union members can call in with questions leading up to and during open enrollment.

What Information to Offer Members About Open Enrollment

Beyond simply getting members to sign up for benefits before the deadline, your goal should be to use this opportunity to initiate a larger discussion not just about the importance of open enrollment for union employees but also about the value of health and health benefits more generally. By the time open enrollment begins, union members should know:

  • How open enrollment works, including when it begins and ends
  • What coverage options members can choose from
  • What resources are available to help members make smart decisions — and how to access them
  • If and how members can take advantage of special health savings vehicles
  • Why knowing this information will help them safeguard their families' health and financial well-being

Building your members' confidence going into open enrollment means cultivating a union of successful members — both personally and professionally. And going forward, if new questions arise or offerings, members will know that the board is a trustworthy and supportive resource for them to turn to for help.

With 15 years' experience writing for publications including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, The Christian Science Monitor and Newsday—Deborah Blumberg specializes in business and finance and health and wellness. She writes about topics including corporate communications, financial markets, real estate, renewable energy, cancer, health education, nutrition, supplements, the microbiome and functional medicine. She was a Knight Center fellow and a Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism fellow. Her time working in marketing and communications at JPMorgan Chase taught her how to best tell a company's story. She's adept at turning complex ideas into compelling copy. She's also an officer of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and a Women in the Visual and Literary Arts board member, and she is fluent in Spanish.