Get the Most Out of Open Enrollment at Work

For many employers, November is the time the open enrollment period begins – a time when employees can reevaluate their benefits, but most importantly their job-sponsored health insurance options. After so many years of employers not covering enough, workers may be surprised to find out this open enrollment season is loaded with new options to choose from at only moderate cost increases.

If the company you work for provides health coverage, you probably got a reminder about the soon approaching season. Most companies do open enrollment in the fall so that their benefits start in January – your employer’s open enrollment may take place another time. Some things to keep in mind below.

Review Your Options

Unfortunately, most working adults spend an average of 45 minutes or less evaluating their employee benefits throughout the open enrollment season, according to a study by Unum.  Also, most people prefer to keep their current health benefits plan rather than switching to a more advantageous one. This year, you should do the math and see what works best for you. Think of the worst- and best-case scenarios. If you have a deadly accident or become ill, for example, you may spend your premium, deductible, and out of pocket expenses.

If things go well, you will only cover your premium and take advantage of your employer contribution to a Health Savings Account (HAS), when available. You must figure out what you can or can’t afford, based on your financial circumstances. At times, some employees may purchase more health coverage than they need. Sometimes the lowest cost plan could be more financially beneficial for you.

Your choice should be mathematical rather than based on provider networks or whether your favorite doctor is part of that network. Things may change each year. So, even if you want to keep your current health plan, make sure your doctors are still part of that specific network. It’s disappointing paying full premium only to discover later that you may need to switch to a new specialist or physician.  

Money-saving Options

You must read your enrollment materials carefully. There are some employers out there that offer a financial incentive or significant discounts on premiums if you participate in some health screenings or complete a health assessment, for example.  Some employers also have options for employees suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma. During open enrollment, workers can enroll to receive health benefits for the first time, change their current plans, or drop coverage. Remember, these decisions can impact your health and finances significantly, so weigh your options carefully before making any changes.

The Importance of Open Enrollment

As with most health plans, once you sign for an option, you are bound to it except for several exclusions. For example, you may qualify for a special enrollment period based on some qualifying life events such as marriage, birth, divorce, adoption, and death. Examine carefully your health insurance options. Make sure you look at your coverage and at your spouse’s insurance coverage as well. Perhaps you used your employer’s coverage last year, but this year it makes more sense switching to your spouse’s plan. The cost is an important factor to consider, but you need to also compare premiums, co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket limits, among other things. A lower premium might be enticing now, but you could end up paying much more if you picked the wrong coverage.

A Health Savings Account May Be A Good Idea

An HSA is often a good way to balance the cost – you could put pre-tax money into another account to pay your medical costs. But to qualify for an HSA, you need to get enrolled first. Make sure your plan qualifies for an HSA before open enrollment. If your employer offers a plan with HAS, find out whether they match the money you put into that account.

When in doubt, ask one of our insurance agents for a health insurance quote and sound guidance during the whole open enrollment process.


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