It is once again time for annual open enrollment, an opportunity to review your current healthcare insurance benefits and maybe even select a new plan. Whether you are choosing a plan through your employer, an exchange, or Medicare, it’s critical to understand your options and take the time to choose the benefits plan that is best for you. While it’s tempting to quickly check this item off your to-do list or simply renew your previous benefits plan, this can cost you later on. In fact, a recent survey by Aflac showed that 42 percent of American workers waste up to $750 each year because of mistakes they made with their health insurance benefits.
Here are a few important items to consider during annual open enrollment to make sure you pick the right plan for you:
- Don’t over- or under-insure. Before choosing a plan, it’s important to assess your current health and financial circumstances. For instance, patients with chronic conditions should consider plans that cover numerous visits to doctors and specialists. For those planning on starting a family, it’s important to look for insurance that will cover prenatal care.
It’s also important to consider if a high-deductible plan is right for you. These plans are growing in popularity and are offered by many employers, but before choosing this option, it’s important to think about how much you will need to use your plan. A deductible is the amount of money you pay out-of-pocket for your healthcare before your health insurance benefits kick in. With a high-deductible health plan, you may be responsible for a larger portion of your medical bills than with traditional plans until you meet your deductible. However, in exchange for higher out-of-pocket costs, you pay a lower monthly insurance premium. If you are young and relatively healthy, this may be a great option for you in order to save money on monthly premiums. But if you think you may need to access providers and services frequently, another plan with more extensive coverage may be better for you.
- Confirm that your doctors are in-network. Don’t automatically assume your doctor is covered in a plan’s network. If you go out-of-network, you will likely be paying much higher out-of-pocket costs to see your preferred doctor. Before you select your new plan, contact the insurance company to find an in-network doctor or call your Personal Health Advocate, who can help you locate a physician and/or confirm if they are in-network.
- Review all the available options. Keep in mind that your current health plan may no longer be the best plan for you, so it’s important to check if this plan still meets your needs. Your coverage may have changed, or perhaps your circumstances are now different. Maybe your co-pay is higher or your prescriptions are no longer covered. Take the time to look into other policies that may better fit your health needs.
- Take into account any life changes. It’s important to fully understand your benefits, especially if you are expecting big changes in the coming year like getting married or starting a family. Don’t assume that your current plan will automatically provide coverage. Review your options carefully and ask yourself these questions when selecting benefits this open enrollment period.
- Know the differences between a Health Savings Account (HSA) and a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Depending on your company’s benefit offerings, both HSAs and FSAs may be available to help you set aside money for qualified health expenses, and it’s important to understand the differences between the two so that you can choose the one that best meets your needs. For example, both options allow you to put money aside into a fund for medical expenses. But funds in an HSA can be held on until retirement if you choose and won’t disappear at the end of the year, while the funds in an FSA will be lost before the end of the plan coverage period if it is not used.
Bonus Tip: Make sure to look at any opportunities your employer may offer to further lower your premium. For example, some organizations offer discounts if you participate in a wellness program or begin a smoking cessation workshop. Talk to your HR department or benefits administrator to learn more.
Annual open enrollment is an opportunity to choose a health benefits plan that best fits your needs and those of your family, setting you up for a healthy and happy year ahead. Be sure to do your research and choose wisely!
For Health Advocate Members
If you are a Health Advocate member and you have questions about your benefits, call us today! A Personal Health Advocate can address your questions or concerns and help you better understand the details of your health plan.