Open enrollment – that once-a-year opportunity for workers to choose their health-care benefits for the upcoming year – starts November 1, and if you don’t understand all of the options and jargon, deciding what’s right for you can be even scarier than Halloween. If you tend to close your eyes and pick a plan without thoroughly investigating the options, you could be leaving money, and coverage, on the table.
To get the most from open-enrollment, it’s best to start with a plan. Here are five tips to get you started:
- Make an appointment with yourself. Open enrollment only lasts until Dec. 15. If you wait to start planning until the 14th, it’s likely you’ll wind up picking a plan just to meet the deadline, rather than carefully researching your options. Instead, treat open enrollment like a work obligation. Block two or three hours on your calendar – earlier in November, if possible – and really take the time to get familiar with your benefits.
- Gather all of your documents. Just like any other meeting, you’ll want to prepare for your open-enrollment meeting with yourself. That means gathering all of the documents you need to compare plans, review your application from last year, and organize your questions. After all, your time is precious – don’t waste it by being disorganized.
- Note any life changes from last year. A lot can happen in a year, including divorce, death of a family member, birth of a child, or the onset of a serious illness or disability. Do you travel out of state more frequently than you did last year? You’ll need to check to see if your benefits cover medical emergencies or doctor visits you may make while traveling. Make a written list of the changes in your life. That way, as you compare plans, you can check off whether you’ve addressed a particular issue.
- Do your research.Your employer may conduct information sessions to alert employees to benefit changes, but don’t be afraid to dig deeper. A plan may have the same name, but the benefits may have changed, or your doctor may no longer be considered “in network.” Try to compare your plan from last year side by side with this year’s version to be sure you’re aware of any differences.
- Ask questions. Certain words and acronyms can be confusing, so don’t hesitate to speak up if you don’t understand some of the terms listed in your open enrollment package. If you work with an adviser, he or she can help you interpret the language and determine which plan would work best for you. If you don’t work with an adviser, contact your benefits administrator to ask for help.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, benefits combined are worth about 31.7 percent of an employee’s total compensation. You have the power to maximize your benefits to make your life – and the lives of your family members – better. If we can be of assistance as you go through the process this year, please feel free to contact us!