Sunday, September 23, 2012

Open Enrollment is coming: Be sure to review your insurance needs!

For many employers, the open enrollment period is looming.  Now is the perfect time to take a hard look at just what your insurance needs will be for the next year.  It seems daunting... I mean, you're stuck with what you choose during open enrollment for an entire year in most cases.  It's a big decision and simply checking the box to elect the same plan as last year is not necessarily the smartest money decision for your family.

A recent survey done by Aflac shows that 89% do just that... elect the same plan that they had last year.  I know my husband's open enrollment period comes at holiday time.  There's a lot going on and spending hours reading brochures and researching choices isn't necessarily something I want to do when there are plenty of other more exciting things to do.  Preparation is the key to make open enrollment run smoothly.  Take a look at this infographic for some more startling results from the Aflac survey. 


I don't want to waste two car payments or four months of groceries!  I'm sure you don't either.  But there are some things that you can do now to help make the decisions you must make during open enrollment easier for yourself and your spouse.  Here are some of my tips for making sure you get the most out of open enrollment.
  • Figure out exactly how much you spent in out-of-pocket expenses, and where.  If you had to take your child to the Emergency Room six times this year for a chronic condition, you will want to focus your sights on a plan that may charge a lesser copay for an ER visit and/or a lower out of pocket for you in the case of an admission.  
  • If your family relies on prescriptions to maintain their health, know that pharmacy benefits change yearly.  Take a moment now and research any pharmacy changes due for 2013 for every plan you would consider or that will be offered during open enrollment.  Our current insurance has already sent an email alert letting us know what pharmacy benefit changes are on the horizon for next year.  Be in the know of any formulary changes that will directly affect your family. 
  • Keep notes!  If you do research on four plans, keep notes on the pros/cons and what coverage is offered and why you elected not to choose them.  Save those notes for next year as it can reveal a trend to you.  Plus, when it comes to benefits time again, you can quickly familiarize yourself with the plans that you considered the previous year and note the pace at which the premiums increased or new or reductions in benefits offered (such as an increased ER copay, no mental health coverage, etc.)  The cheapest plan isn't always the best fit for your family.
  • Don't just automatically choose last year's plan.  You may be better off selecting an insurance that offers limited dental benefits at a cheaper rate than one that offers good dental packaged with its major medical, and then picking up a supplemental dental plan.  Be sure to look at any plan's provider list as you may need to travel a great distance to get an in-network provider, whereas electing another insurance plan may mean a slightly higher premium, but a more localized network of providers.  With gas at $4 a gallon or more, traveling a long way for care can eat into your household budget fast.
  • Educate yourself on any Flexible Spending Account information provided to you.  Some things that used to be covered (such as OTC medicines) aren't easily covered, plus the max amount you can defer is lowered for 2013.   Your aim should be to elect to put only as much money into the FSA as you will spend in 2013.  Carefully consider copays, anticipated dental needs, and other expenses when deciding how much to defer.  
  • Visit your providers now.  Planning a dental cleaning and exam now makes smart sense.  You'll avoid having to squeeze in at holiday time and if you will need dental work done, you can use up your 2012 FSA monies and know about how much you might need in 2013 and then be able to make an appropriate FSA election.  In recent years, my husband found out he needed a crown on the same day our FSA election was due.  We were able to go in and change our election to compensate for the crown he would need in January the following year, which saved us money.
  •  Consider every insurance product offered to you.  Open enrollment for many employees is a period where more than just major medical plans are offered to employees.  If you hurt yourself outside of work, your medical insurance will take care of your injuries; however, you may not be covered for loss of pay, leaving you a short stack of money with which to pay a large stack of bills.  A family member of mine found this out the hard way when he broke his leg.  That broken leg and the loss of income was devastating.  Sure, his health insurance took care of the hospital bill, but he didn't have any policy in place to cover him in the event of a short-term disability and didn't receive a paycheck for weeks.  Even if your work doesn't offer a product like Aflac, open enrollment is an excellent time to look into a policy that will cover you when you need it most.
Open enrollment begins soon and taking some time now when life isn't so busy with hectic holiday schedules is one way to make sure you won't be one of the many who end up wasting $750 a year by making the wrong choice for them during open enrollment.  Don't be afraid to ask your HR department for assistance if you need it!  It's their job to help you understand your benefit options.

I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Aflac and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.
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