Five Things to Consider During Open Enrollment
Open enrollment. It is your once-a-year chance to make choices and changes in your benefits plan. Are you ready? Decisions made during this season are significant, as they not only affect the pocketbook, they also determine healthcare choices for an entire year.
According to a MetLife study, employees typically spend only about 30 minutes considering their options during open enrollment before selecting a health plan for themselves and often their families. Invest the time needed to make the best possible informed decision.
Know when your open enrollment starts. And know when your open enrollment ends too. Check with your employer. For most companies, it is usually a 30-day period. Read up on all the plans offered. Ask for materials, look on the websites, attend open enrollment meetings (if they are held), or contact the carriers with questions.
Kiplinger provides these “must do” suggestions to get the most out of your workplace benefits.
- Pick the best deal in health insurance. Ever-increasing healthcare expenses are prompting most employers to boost premiums, co-payments and deductibles for their health insurance plans. It’s important to compare premiums, but you also need to add up your potential out-of-pocket costs for each plan. If you have several plan options, the one you picked in the past may no longer be your best choice.
- Add grown kids to your health insurance policy. As a result of healthcare reform, you can add adult children up to age 26 to your health insurance coverage, even if they had aged off the policy in the past. And a child can be covered under your plan even if he or she doesn’t live at home, isn’t your dependent for tax purposes and is married. For more information about the nuances of this rule, see the Young Adult Coverage Until Age 26 section of the Healthcare.gov Web site.
- Make the most of flexible spending accounts (FSAs). FSAs can help lower your taxable income and give you tax-free funds to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses throughout the year.
- Get tax-free money for child care. Many employers also let you set aside up to $5,000 in a dependent-care flexible spending account, which gives you tax-free money to use for dependent care for children under age 13.
- Benefit from special deals on other insurance coverage. You may also be given the choice during open-enrollment season to buy extra life insurance, disability insurance and long-term-care insurance beyond any coverage already provided by your employer. You usually have to pay for this extra coverage yourself, but you could benefit from a group discount. However, the quality of these deals can vary a lot, depending on the type of insurance.
How do you decide what type of coverage is right for you? Consider these distinct areas: Review the previous year’s healthcare expenses; Estimate your healthcare needs for the next year; make a list of your desired physicians and providers; identify a budget, specifically a financial range you can pay for premiums; and consider plan accessibility. For more information about what coverage is right for you, see Choosing the Right Health Plan During Open Enrollment.
Evaluating your employer health plans takes time, but it’s time well spent and helps you be a more informed healthcare consumer.