Open enrollment is upon us. In the past, when you started a new position, you could choose your benefits and simply re-up each year. Nowadays, companies keep a close eye on how to maximize their spending, so they make changes to their benefits from time to time. This means it’s vital to review your current benefits to ensure they still make sense for you.
Here are a few tips on how to make the best choices during the open enrollment period:
- Audit the past year’s healthcare spending - By taking a hard look at the numbers, you can get a good idea what next year’s healthcare spending may look like.
- Think ahead - Do you have any new upcoming healthcare expenses? Perhaps someone was just diagnosed with a chronic illness, and you’ll have new expenses, maybe one of your kids needs braces. By taking the time to consider your upcoming healthcare needs now, you can make sound decisions.
- Consider the out-of-pocket expenses you can handle - Possibly the scariest part of healthcare is the out-of-pocket amounts you’re responsible for. Take a hard look at your monthly income and spending to get an idea of how much out-of-pocket expenses you can actually afford. Then compare the health care plans deductibles, copayments and coinsurance to see which plan lines up best with your personal situation.
- Contribute to a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)- If an FSA is available to you, consider setting one up and contributing some money to it. Of course, with FSAs, there is the “use it or lose it” clause, but by pre-planning how you intend to use the money, it’ll work out.
- Pair a Health Savings Account (HSA) with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)- While looking at plans, consider opting for an HDHP and pairing it with an HSA. Be sure to verify that the specific HDHP can be paired with an HSA, as not all can. The high deductible may seem scary, so you’ll have to consider your personal situation to ensure it makes sense for you. If an HDHP seems like a good fit, the HSA tax advantages and the ability to roll the money year to year as well as take it with you is an amazing benefit.
- Ensure your preferred healthcare providers participate- Especially with HMOs and PPOs, it is important to verify that your preferred doctors, hospitals and other healthcare professionals participate in the insurance plan you’re considering. When you ask, you’ll have to be specific as health insurance companies offer many plans and doctors don’t participate in all the plans. For example, don’t just ask if they acceptBlueCross, but ask about the specific plan you're looking at.
- Consider Medicare options- If you're on Medicare, and considering a Medicare Advantage plan, study the healthcare provider network, the prescription drug coverage and what to expect for out-of-network coverage, especially if you travel often.
- Study the prescription drug benefits- For many, prescriptions are a monthly cost. Be sure to find a plan that offers good coverage, especially if you have several prescriptions to fill or need expensive medicines.
Open enrollment is an excellent time to look at your overall healthcare picture to make the best decisions for the coming year. Keep these suggestions in mind as you make your choices.
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.