Employer readiness for open enrollment season increased for the third month in a row among organizations with benefit start dates in the first quarter, according to Employee Benefit Adviser’s Open Enrollment Readiness Benchmark. However, despite employers reporting improvement across enrollment activities, there is still much they have to accomplish before sign-up periods begin in just a few short weeks.

The composite OERB score — an average of progress self-assessments for 26 open enrollment activities — increased seven points in August, reaching 49.

Open Enrollment Readiness Benchmark
Overall Readiness
Phase
Activity
Readiness
Progress
Phase Readiness

Phase 1

Benefit Plan Design

Phase 1

Benefit Plan Design

Phase 2

Open Enrollment Preparation

Phase 2

Open Enrollment Preparation

Phase 3

Open Enrollment Management

Phase 3

Open Enrollment Management

Phase 4

Open Enrollment Design Analysis & Follow-Up

Phase 4

Open Enrollment Design Analysis & Follow-Up

The average score for activities in the plan design phase, one of the four critical stages in open enrollment, increased six points to 73, which roughly equates to a response of “strong progress, almost complete.” (Scores range from zero, for no progress, to 100, for completed.)

There was an eight-point increase in the average for the enrollment preparation phase, but that still only lifted it to a relatively low 46. Most activities in the phase were also in the 40s: reviewing compliance and eligibility issues, setting goals, and documenting processes and procedures. Planning and designing employee communications, another enrollment preparation phase activity, posted a readiness score of just 29.

Persistent struggles, however, create opportunities for advisers to engage with clients as strategic part­ners, helping employers structure their efforts more effectively and escape the annual scramble that often surrounds open enrollment.