It’s that time of year again, when 80% of Americans spend less than an hour researching one of the most important decisions they’ll make this year: their health coverage. Unfortunately, this often leaves many people under-insured or without the right coverage for their needs. To prevent this from happening to you, we have a few tips that’ll help you make the right decisions for you and your family this open enrollment season.
What is open enrollment?
Open enrollment, simply put, is a period of time, usually two-to-six weeks, when people can enroll in health insurance and other benefits for the next year. It most often occurs in the fall, but some employers have specific open enrollment periods, so if you are not sure when your company's open enrollment takes place, it's always a good idea to ask. Outside of open enrollment, you often are not able to change your health insurance coverage without a "qualifying life event," such as having a baby, getting married, or losing other health coverage.
Because researching healthcare options can feel like a chore, during open enrollment, roughly 90% of Americans choose the health plan they had the previous year, despite any changes in health. This can leave them under-insured. In addition, individuals often don't look into how their plans may have changed, even if it has the same name, and often neglect the full range of benefits their insurance plan and employer offers.
Six tips to help you determine your benefits package
These simple, actionable tips will help you select the best benefits for you and your family.
Review your family’s recent health history
To make sure you’re buying the right coverage for your family’s needs, you need to know what those needs are. Take a look at what your family’s medical needs have been over the last two years. Assess:
- How did your current plan support you?
- Where did it fall short? Then ask yourself if you or a family member has been recently diagnosed with a condition that will require ongoing treatment. If so, you’ll want to take that treatment into account when choosing a plan.
Assess recent or near-future life changes
Are you getting married? Pregnant, wanting to get pregnant, or adtopting a child? Are you planning to move away from your preferred doctor and want to make sure you have access to another health provider you like? To make the right decision for your health coverage, you’ll want to anticipate how these future changes will affect your healthcare needs.
Check your current plan
Plan names can stay the same but the benefits included within them could change. So even if you keep the same plan as you had last year, it could end up costing you more or less depending on what changes your employer or the plan provider made. Possible changes to look for are:
- Coverage levels
- Types of products offered
- New providers for existing products
- New products from existing providers
See if premiums and deductibles have changed
Sometimes companies change the amount to which they’ll contribute to their employees’ health plans. If your company has changed its contribution levels, this will likely affect the amount you pay in premiums and deductibles. It might also affect the attractiveness of HSAs and FSAs in order to help with those deductibles.
Do your own research
Your company will likely put out official communication regarding your benefits options and reviewing its resources is a good place to start. But it’s not a place to end. Many companies like Alegeus, which is an administrator of health benefits for organizations, provide resources to help consumers make the right choices when it comes to their benefits. By doing your own research, you’re more likely to get a neutral third party assessment of your plan options, and you might even find better benefits in the marketplace than your company is offering.
If you do find better plans that you think your company should consider, try sending them to your Human Resources (HR) Department. When HR knows what employees need, they can make better choices in terms of what benefits they offer in the future.
Check your company’s wellness initiatives
Companies have realized that a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce. To incentivize healthy behavior, many have started programs that reward such behavior with increased benefits like a greater HSA or 401(k) contribution, lower premiums, or other perks like reimbursement for gym memberships. Check with your HR Department to see if you might qualify for any increased benefits.
Navigating the healthcare labyrinth can feel like a job in and of itself. But if you follow our six tips, you’re more likely to make the right decisions for your family and could end up saving money over the course of the year.
Learn more with Lively
Lively is a modern, health savings account (HSA) that helps you save for routine and unexpected healthcare expenses and plan for retirement. To learn more, check out our resources on healthcare and financial wellness, or see if an HSA is a fit for you.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.