The Underrated (and Often Misused) Period of a Dependent Audit
By Nick Freeman

Dependent Audits are, by nature, an exercise in effective communication. Great employee engagement plans require customization, repetition, clarity, attention to detail, and much more. But even when everything goes perfectly, there are almost always 1-10% of employees who fail to meet their deadline to submit dependent eligibility documents.

The short period after a document submission deadline is best for follow-up, outreach, and engagement of employees who miss the deadline. This “Grace and Chase” period ultimately determines the success of a Dependent Audit.

Grace

Employees miss their document submission deadline for many reasons, but most often it is that they are waiting for a document to arrive from a courthouse, family member, or third party like VitalChek. These employees don’t need prodding or urging to complete the process; they just need a few more days of grace for their documents to arrive and then submit them.

Best practices in the Grace Period

  • Agree on a defined Grace Period, but do not to tell employees about it. Employees who know about a grace period to submit documents will procrastinate.
  • Keep the Grace Period 15 days or less. Too much grace time allows employees to put the documentation requirement on their mental back burner.
  • Send a targeted benefits termination notice on the day after the deadline. Sending a stern letter will incite some phone calls but ultimately will also result in higher participation. When employees call, tell them about the grace period deadline (usually the 15th of the month).
  • Do not tell employees about the appeals process for more time until the final letter. Employees who know about the grace period or appeals option ahead of time will procrastinate. The appearance of a firm deadline is essential to participation rates.

Chase

A successful Dependent Audit includes many optional touch points to employees before the submission deadline: an internal announcement, posters, payroll stuffers, letters to the employee’s home, follow-ups, a participation incentive program, emails, informative videos, and even manager reminders.

Despite these many touch points, a small number of employees will still miss the deadline, and you need to chase them down. These employees become part of the Chase Period.

Best practices in the Chase Period

  • Make live outbound phone calls, in Spanish if necessary, to employee homes. A high-quality vendor will not use an automated recording and instead places up to three calls trying to speak with the employee or spouse. (The spouse is often the person who opens, and throws away, the mail but also has access to verification documents.) A great vendor will have a bilingual caller on standby just in case the employee answers in Spanish.
  • Use managers to reach employees. Sometimes employees move and don’t tell their employer. Sometimes the USPS does not return letters or forward mail. In these rare occurrences, employees do not receive information on how to verify dependent eligibility. Managers can communicate with the employee to engage them in the verification process.
  • Send targeted emails to all employees with at least one dependent still unverified. (A personal email yields a higher response rate than a blast email or a group BCC.)
  • Be very clear in written and voicemail communications what the ramifications are for failing to verify eligibility for benefits, including the last day of insurance coverage for unverified dependents.
  • Be specific which dependents are at risk of losing coverage due to non-verification. (An email or voicemail carries weight when you mention the name of a child or spouse.)
  • Offer the appeal process as a last resort. Most employees procure documents in a timely fashion without needing an appeal as less than 1.3% of employees request more time.

Grace & Chase Summary

Dependent Audits take place in four phases:

  1. Implementation
  2. Document Collection
  3. Grace & Chase
  4. Project Closeout

The Grace & Chase period is critical to maximizing employee participation and minimizing downstream noise. With proper planning and employing these best practices, your Grace & Chase phase will reach employees in new ways to maximize engagement.

Contact us today for a demo or proposal and see what DSI can do for your next verification project.

 

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