Open enrollment gives you the chance to get needed benefits, but the process can often seem daunting and confusing. What can make the whole process more intimidating is weighing additional services, such as health and flexible spending accounts, dental or vision insurance, and retirement options. Here are some points to consider (and some pitfalls to avoid) to make the most out of your open enrollment period.
Terms to Remember
- A deductible is the amount you need to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance will pay for your medical expenses.
- A copay is what you pay at the doctor’s office when you visit.
- There are two kinds of accounts some employers offer: flex spending and health savings Both are created when your employer sets aside portions of your paycheck into an account specifically designated for health expenses. However, a flexible savings account (FSA) is owned by your company. This means that if you do not use up all of the money in the account before the year’s end, you may lose it. A health savings account (HSA) is an account you own, but you may only be eligible if your plan has a high deductible.
- “Life events”, such as the birth of a child, a loss in coverage, or a marriage, can allow you to enroll outside of the normal enrollment period.
When You Are Considering a Plan
- Make sure you know all of the deadlines you have to meet. The specific date changes depending on what insurance provider you are considering. Consider setting reminders using a planner or online service.
- When you are looking over plans, read over them carefully. Your plan options might change from year to year.
- Look into the doctors that are available within your network. If your normal doctor is no longer part of the network, you stand to pay more than you have been paying.
- Think about the kinds of medical issues you might face. While you can’t predict everything, consider events that might happen, such as surgeries or pregnancy. The goal is to avoid paying for options you don’t need or missing out on services you do need.
- Research the specialists the policy covers, such as allergists, chiropractors, and mental health providers.
- Look into dental and vision insurance — most general insurance policies will not cover these needs with the exception of emergency or accident care.
- Some open enrollment plans have options for retirement accounts as well. This can be a daunting subject by itself, but consider researching these plans at least a little bit to learn more about your options.
When You Are Applying for a Plan
- Get all of your documents together. This includes Social Security information for children/dependents, immigration papers, employment information (such as W-2 or W-9 forms or pay stubs), and your home and mailing information.
- After filling out an application, you may have multiple options to choose from, so be sure to give yourself enough time to look through them.
- Consider some of the other options, such as short-term disability or wellness programs. These options are generally not thought of as being under “normal” insurance, but they can support your current plans. For example, some wellness plans can give you a lower premium as a result of health improvements.
- Ask plenty of questions if there is something you are unsure of — your health insurance is important, so be sure of your options.
Be Prepared for Open Enrollment
The process of renewing or enrolling in a health insurance policy can seem daunting and baffling to many people. However, this is not an issue to ignore or take lightly. Considering your needs can help you narrow your choices. Additionally, being careful about allowing time and asking questions will smooth out the entire process, making this the best open enrollment possible for you and your loved ones.