Throughout the U.S., the fall season introduces the arrival of the open enrollment period — a period where employers and health insurers allow policyholders to change their coverage, or enroll in new plans, without the need for a qualifying life event (such as a marriage, or the birth of a new child). This occurrence provides employees with a valuable opportunity to re-evaluate whether the health insurance coverage they currently have is working for them, or to adjust their protection based on changes in their life.
Taking full advantage of your employee benefit plan allows you to access unbeatable value, but it’s all too easy for individuals to miss out because they’re unable to grasp what they’re signing up for, or fail to be active in addressing new healthcare plans. Following are just some of the most common open enrollment mistakes that you should avoid if you want to save cash and get the right insurance for you and your family in the coming year.
1. Misunderstanding the Details of New Plans
Entering into a new healthcare plan during the open enrollment period is only beneficial to employees who know exactly what they’re signing up for. Many employers today are adopting new solutions to help them manage the rising costs of healthcare, such as Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs.
For instance, the most appealing aspect of a HSA, is that you contribute your money without having to consider the use-it-or-lose-it approach that flexible spending arrangements use. This means you can stash away money and choose whether to access it in paying for current medical expenses, or whether to store it away for future needs. On the other hand, employees suffer by failing to fund their account properly, or failing to understand the rules that disqualify them from contributing to an HSA in the first place.
2. Avoiding Asking Important Questions
It’s not uncommon to have specific or individual concerns regarding your healthcare needs, or the requirements of other people on your policy. However, by failing to ask about the changes taking place, or the options available to you, you could be missing out on the solutions suited to your circumstances. For example, if you’re thinking of signing your spouse and children onto your plan, then you’ll need to ask about your employer’s policy in these matters. Many organizations are beginning to impose extra charges upon their staff members when they add a spouse to their policy — particularly if your spouse already has access to health insurance at his or her own place of work. By asking the right questions, you can determine the benefits of having everyone on one spouses plan, or the other, and compare the value of adding children to each healthcare option.
3. Disregarding the Value of FSAs
Figuring out the math involved in estimating non-covered health expenses from prescription co-pays to eyeglasses and dental care could lead to a significant loss in valuable tax savings. Obamacare has allowed for a maximum of $2,500 per year that employees can defer into healthcare Flexible Savings Accounts, and if both spouses sign up for an FSA, they could achieve a total of $5,000. If you’re expecting to incur medical expenses that a regular health insurance plan wouldn’t reimburse, it’s crucial to take advantage of an FSA. By reducing your income taxes, an FSA can save you money, as contributions deduct from your pay before social security, state, or federal taxes are calculated. In the end, this means that your taxable income decreases, and you could save thousands of dollars per year.
4. Not Taking Advantage of Benefit Opportunities
Employees should keep in mind that the open enrollment period isn’t just about signing up for new forms of health insurance, or adjusting your policy — many employers also offer opportunities to participate in further benefit options too. By ignoring the available opportunities offered, you could miss out on the ability to take part in short-term disability insurance, deferred compensation, or even a wellness program. Wellness programs encourage healthier lifestyles in employees by offering advantages to health-conscious workers. At the same time, remember to apply for assistance in covering the cost of your insurance, as even if your income didn’t change, it’s possible that qualification standards have.
5. Being Passive About Open Enrollment
Even if you’re happy with the state of your current health plan, it’s important to remember that life, health insurance, and options change with each passing year. Being complacent allowing your health care coverage to renew passively over a number of years increases your chances of losing money unnecessarily. Major life events can change the kind of protection you need, and everything from illness, to marriage, or even a pay rise could mean you should address your options again. Think about what you and your family needs, and the situations you could face in the future, then use those considerations to inform your insurance selections.
Have a Successful Open Enrollment
Dates for open enrollment vary from one insurance provider or employer to the next, and the benefits it can offer are considerable. However, it’s important to understand which options are available to you, and how to make the most of your coverage.