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10 Fun Facts About Open Enrollment

Open enrollment is coming. Again. For already busy HR professionals, it can be an especially hectic time—which is why we think you’ll enjoy this quick break. Take a few minutes to learn some interesting, entertaining, and little-known facts about open enrollment and its place in the greater employee benefits universe.

Fun Fact #1

When is open enrollment for health insurance—is it the same for all employers? According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBA) 77% of employers begin open enrollment in October or November. For the remaining minority, open enrollment periods are spread evenly across the rest of the year. 

Fun Fact #2

In the same vein, when does open enrollment end for most employers? The IFEBA finds that 52% of employers hold a two-week open enrollment period, with three and four week enrollment periods following suit. (But ask most HR professionals, and they’re likely to say that it seems to go on much longer.)

Fun Fact #3

The roots of group health insurance—the primary focus of open enrollment—date back to the 1850s, when steamboat and railroad employers began offering accident insurance to employees in high-risk jobs. Interestingly, the insurance didn’t cover workers’ medical bills, but the lost wages of workers injured on the job.

Fun Fact #4
It’s believed that the first open enrollments were held during World War II, as a way to combat the wartime labor shortage. Employers began offering health insurance benefits as a way to attract and retain employees—a practice that’s never ended.

Fun Fact #5

It’s thought that the concept of an annual open enrollment period was developed by insurance companies as a way to limit liability and help keep insurance pools healthy. After all, if people could enroll year-round, many would only sign up after they became ill.

Fun Fact #6

These days, many employers are expanding their voluntary benefits offerings. Over the last three years, the fastest growing voluntary benefits have been child and elder care assistance, hospital indemnity, pet insurance, and critical illness.

Fun Fact #7

Healthcare costs have skyrocketed over time. In 1960, the annual healthcare cost averaged $150 per person. Now, it’s closer to $13,000 per person—and climbing.  

Fun Fact #8

As much as employees value their benefits, they don’t spend much time choosing them. According to one study, employees spend an average of just 18 minutes enrolling (as opposed to four hours spent when choosing a new smartphone). That’s why clear communications matter—and why engaging employees’ attention is so important.

Fun Fact #9

Some employers use playful themes to spark interest in open enrollment. These may include sports, music or movie motifs—supported by gamification exercises, promotional items, and raffle prizes for those who enroll early.

Fun Fact #10

In some companies, HR staff is known to dress up in costumes to underscore the season’s open enrollment theme. So, maybe now’s the time to don your superhero gear? Because HR pros truly are the heroes of open enrollment. And if the cape fits, wear it!

At Namely, we work hard to give you additional HR superpowers—and that includes simplifying benefits. See how we make benefits easier and read our guide to virtual open enrollments. Up, up, and away!

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