Get more out of open enrollment
Wednesday, October 04, 2017
Would you rather go through your inbox, do your taxes, clean your toilet or research healthcare options? An Aflac survey from 2015 found a significant number of people would rank researching healthcare last on that list.
Yet many of us pay for more insurance than we need by simply sticking with the same plan each year. Instead of waiting until the last minute or checking the same boxes to avoid more frustrating forms, take these three simple steps to get the most out of open enrollment.
Definite vs. maybe
Start with a simple list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. For example, is it critical to maintain the same primary care physician, or is it just convenient? How many prescriptions are required, and how expensive are they? Is there a generic, and can it be substituted?
Starting with a basic list of what definitely must be covered and why as opposed to what may be covered can create a clearer picture of how much coverage will be necessary, which can help to eliminate overspending on insurance.
Must vs. wish
With the basics covered, it is time to do a little planning. First, consider what just happened in the past year. Were there any ongoing treatments? Was there a one-time procedure? How will those impact coverage needs for the current year? Add this to list of definites and maybes.
Then, consider the upcoming year. Are there any planned surgeries or procedures? Is a birth or pregnancy likely to happen? Or did something unexpected just happen you want to account for?
Many people add insurance after witnessing someone else experience coverage challenges. Decide whether each is a definite or maybe, and add it to the list.
This list will continue to paint a clearer picture of need and can help determine whether supplemental insurances or additional programs like an HSA or FSA might help.
Free accountants in tax season
This is the holiday season for people who specialize in benefits. They are staffed up and ready to provide support — take advantage of that. Once the list is complete, make an appointment to talk with someone.
Whether it is the benefits specialist in the HR department, the local offices helping with the exchanges or the broker representatives, open enrollment is the time of year that people are ready and waiting to answer coverage questions. There is no reason to approach open enrollment alone.
The appointment is also a great time to ask about the incentives the employer or insurance companies are offering for participation. It can be anything from a raffle at the end of enrollment to ongoing health-oriented incentives. Either way, there are usually free rewards for something you are already doing. Ask about them!
The bottom line
Still hesitant? Make one more list: total amount spent on contributions for healthcare, prescriptions, travel/time/parking expenses for appointments and co-pays last year. It is a significant expense for most people, but just following these simple steps for open enrollment could go far in reducing those costs for the coming year.
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