About this time every year, employees have a brief chance to enroll in or make changes to their company’s benefits plans for the coming year. If you’re like most people, though, your eyes start to glaze over when you finally sit down to sign up. It does take a little planning. But it’s in your best interest to give this some thought. The choices you make protect you and your family and can save—or cost—you some money. Take advantage of any benefits materials, online tools or calculators, or benefit plan meetings your company provides. If you need further help, talk to a human resources professional. This person can fully explain the full range of benefits such as health, vision, dental, and life insurance as well as other offerings.1
Here’s more information to help the process go a bit more smoothly:
1. Compare health plans. Carefully look over your company’s options. Look at all the pieces, not just the total cost. That includes premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket limits. Know what a provider network is and what happens if your doctor is outside the network. Also, see how your spouse’s plan compares with yours. 1
2. Assess and adjust. Not every year is the same. Just had a baby? Then, life and disability insurance may be a higher priority than in the past.2 Not been taking advantage of low-cost options yet have been paying a higher regular premium? Then, you might do be better off with a high deductible plan.3
3. Consider an HRA. Health reimbursement accounts can be particularly helpful in a year when you know you’ll have some extra expenses. Middle-schooler about to get braces? Time for an elective surgery? With an HRA, you can set aside pre-tax money in a separate account to use for medical expenses. The tax benefits can really add up. But remember: many plans require that you use the money in this account before the end of the year.1
4. Don’t overlook other offerings. A CareerBuilder survey found that many employees leave up to $1,000 on the table simply because they don’t know about all the benefits their company provides.4 This can include flexible spending accounts (FSAs), wellness benefits, tuition reimbursement, banking programs, and special discount programs.4
5. Private Health Insurance. If your employer does not provide health insurance and you’re not on Medicare or Medicaid, you may be eligible for plans that fits your budget and meets your needs — including subsidies that can reduce your monthly cost — under the Affordable Care Act. Enrollment begins October 1, 2013 and ends on March 31, 2014. Coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014.
Still confused? We’ll see what we can do to help point you in the right direction.
1. About.com: “Take Advantage of Your Employer’s Open Enrollment Period.” Available at: http://financialplan.about.com/od/insurance/a/open-enrollment.htm Accessed March 18, 2013.
2. Financial Planning Association: “Be Wise at Work: Use Open Enrollment to Your Benefit.” Available at: http://www.fpanet.org/ToolsResources/ArticlesBooksChecklists/Articles/Employment/BeWiseatWorkUseOpenEnrollmenttoYourBenefit/ Accessed March 18, 2013.
3. Financial Planning Association: “A Checklist for Open Enrollment.” Available at: http://www.fpanet.org/ToolsResources/ArticlesBooksChecklists/Checklists/Employment/AChecklistforOpenEnrollment/ Accessed March 18, 2013.
4. Financial Planning Association: “It’s Open Enrollment Season! Don’t Miss Out on These Benefits.” Available at: http://www.fpanet.org/ToolsResources/ArticlesBooksChecklists/Checklists/Employment/ContemplatingEmployeeBenefits/ Accessed March 18, 2013.