5 Tips for Navigating Open Enrollment Season

Fifty percent of Americans say selecting and understanding benefits is a top concern in their healthcare decision-making. Still, when confronted with their options, 77 percent spend 60 minutes or less preparing for and selecting benefits. Nearly half (46 percent) spend less than a half an hour. Almost everyone who has coverage under an employee plan – 90 percent – keeps the same plan year after year. Although it’s unlikely plan options – or coverage needs – stay the same.  

Open enrollment can be overwhelming – the idea of committing so much money to benefits they may not use and costs they may not understand leads them to choose the fastest, easiest option.
But insurance isn’t designed to confuse you – it’s designed to protect you. It’s important to put some thought into your lifestyle, how things have changed (for you and your employer) over the past year, and what that means for your enrollment elections.

Here are five tips to ensure your open enrollment period ends with the best possible coverage for your life and lifestyle:

Speak With a Representative About Any Changes

Premium increase through your employer is probably easy enough to understand, but what if your employer has added or eliminated plans? Changed premiums or cost-sharing? Is working with an entirely new insurance provider? You don’t need to decipher all these changes on your own – chances are, someone at your office and at the insurance company are there to help you understand. And don’t ignore a spouse’s open enrollment just because you’ve always gotten coverage under the other. Every year, as insurance offerings and needs change, it’s important to understand which members of the family are best covered under which available plan.

Review How Much You’ve Spent Out-of-Pocket Over the Last Year

Your historical costs are a great place to start when you’re trying to decide which plan to choose. How many times did your family members visit the doctor? What is the total of your regular prescriptions annually? No year will be exactly the same, but it’s a good idea to elect coverage that fits with how you and your family received medical care in the past.

Compare the Upcoming Year With the Past Year

Do you expect to spend more or less in medical costs? Of course, you can’t predict the future, but you can make an educated guess. Think about major anticipated changes – a baby on the way or a planned operation. And don’t forget about the smaller, routine expenses that can add up: maybe you are due for a new pair of glasses.

Consider Your Flexible Spending Account Options

Flex spending is a tax-advantaged way to help offset the medical costs you’ll pay out of pocket. You may be offered an FSA (flexible spending account) or an HSA (health savings account) – or a choice between the two. In both options, you set aside a pre-determined amount of pre-tax dollars monthly (up to an annual limit) that you can then use to pay for things such as insurance premiums, deductibles, copays and over-the-counter medicine. The main difference is that you own your HSA, which is an option on a high-deductible health plan. You can roll over funds or invest them if they’re not used. An FSA, on the other hand, is owned by your employer. If you don’t use all the money you’ve contributed by the end of the year, you’ll probably forfeit it.

Take a Bigger Picture View of Your Health and Finances

Health insurance is designed to protect your finances and your assets should you be subjected to medical bills you couldn’t otherwise pay. Life insurance, on the other hand, protects your family and their finances should a situation arise medicine cannot fix. When you’re considering your medical insurance needs for the upcoming year, think about your life insurance policy as well. Consider your longer-term upcoming needs just like you’d think about your healthcare needs. If you’re getting married, having a baby, buying a house or undergoing any elective surgeries, take some time to think about the amount to keep your family comfortable if you weren’t around. Then speak with a representative about the best way to put a protective plan into place.

Insurance policies can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to navigate your needs alone. During open enrollment season, take a deep breath, read through the information provided by your employer or the government, and think about how it may apply to your life. If you find yourself stuck, don’t hesitate to reach out to a SelectQuote representative – we’re here to help!

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