For many people, annual open enrollment is happening now, or is right around the corner. This 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—it can be a confusing process! Whether you’re selecting a new plan on the healthcare.gov marketplace, or a plan through your employer, we’ve put together some tips to help you feel confident that you are making the best decision.
Check the dates and deadlines. Know when open enrollment begins and when it ends. Mark it on your calendar, set a reminder on your phone—whatever you need to do to remind yourself to enroll! If you miss these crucial deadlines, you (and possibly your family) may be in a tough situation.
Refresh yourself on common insurance terminology. Before diving into your open enrollment guide, make sure you understand what you’re reading to make educated decisions. Click here to read our Healthcare 101 – A Refresher Guide.
Determine if it is an active or passive enrollment. Some employers require that you make selections every year, regardless of whether or not you’re changing your options (active enrollment), and some will keep your selections if you’re not making changes (passive enrollment). Be sure to check your requirements so you don’t miss out on important instructions.
Take life changes into account. It’s important to consider how your life has changed since you enrolled in your current plan or how your life may change in the upcoming year, as this could impact which plan is best for you. If you had or will have a change in your healthcare needs, got or are getting married, or welcomed or are welcoming in the new plan year a new baby to the family, you may want to adjust the type of coverage you have to account for these changes.
Check that doctors are in-network. Whether you think you want to stick with your current plan or switch to a new one, it’s critical that you confirm that your current doctors are in-network. Even if they have been previously, it’s worth your time to check that they still are, as this can change from year to year. You do not want to unexpectedly receive a big medical bill because you didn’t realize your doctor is now out-of-network. It is also important to check that any labs, imaging facilities, hospitals or other medical facilities you use or may use are in-network.
Review all available options. Health insurance plans can change each year, so even if you think you want to keep your current plan, it’s important to review the details of each available option before you make your selection. Look at the costs, including monthly premiums, co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles, to see which structure works best for you and your family. Also review the coverage details to make sure benefits you use are included (or have not been reduced or removed from your existing plan), such as pharmacy benefits or lab services. For more information to help you choose a plan, click here.
Budget for savings accounts. If you select a high-deductible health plan, you are eligible to enroll in a Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA can save you money on a pre-tax basis, allowing you to use these funds to pay for healthcare-related expenses without being taxed. Click here to learn more about how an HSA can save you money.
If you are not eligible for an HSA, you may still be able to contribute to a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for healthcare expenses. FSAs function very similarly to HSAs, except any funds that you do not use by the end of the plan year will be lost (HSA funds roll over year to year). Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you budget appropriately for anticipated expenses, especially if you have an FSA that will not roll over.
Look into possible discounts. Some employers are now offering their employees discounts on their monthly health insurance premium if they take steps to improve their health, such as quitting smoking or participating in a wellness program. Check with your HR department to find out if this option might be available to you. Even if you don’t have an opportunity to earn a discount, taking advantage of wellness programs and benefits can improve your health, and subsequently save you money on healthcare costs!
By taking steps to prepare ahead of time, you can be confident that you are selecting the best health insurance option for you and your family during this year’s open enrollment.