Thank goodness the election is over, because there is another election you need to focus on now.
This time of year, your employer gives you an opportunity to make changes to your workplace benefits next year. Yes, it’s open enrollment season again.
Can I be honest with you?
I’ve been trifling in the past when it comes to open enrollment. There have been times when I waited until the night before the deadline to review my benefit information. Or life got in the way, and I just forgot to review my choices. Usually, I just went with what I already had, which is good. But I could have made some costly mistakes.
Fifty-six percent of employees estimate they waste up to $750 annually because of their errors during open enrollment, according to a survey of 2,500 consumers conducted for an insurance provider. Participants said they elected the wrong level of insurance coverage or took benefit options they didn’t need.
Take heed from the mistakes the survey found:
• Sixty-one percent of those polled said they are only sometimes or not at all aware of changes to their insurance policies each year.
• Eighty-nine percent default to the same options every year.
• Only 16 percent contribute the right amount to flexible spending accounts.
Overwhelmingly, employees said they found decisions on their health care benefits to be difficult because the information they are given is confusing and complicated, there is conflicting data, and it’s hard to determine which plan is the right for them, according to the survey.
First, don’t treat your open enrollment package like junk mail. Open it. Or go online and read through the materials provided by your employer. You will likely find tools to help you compare health care costs, insurance plans or other benefits. Even if you aren’t planning on making any changes to your choices, look at everything that is being offered. The health insurance plan that has worked for you in the past may have undergone some major changes or service deletions. How do you know if you’ve got the best plan for you or your family if you don’t know what else is being offered?
You have to do some math. I know. It’s a pain. But you may have a Cadillac health insurance plan when you only need Chevy coverage.
Take some time to add up your yearly medical expenses so you can elect the right coverage for your needs. The insurer found that 43 percent of its survey participants rarely or never track how much they spend on out-of-pocket health care costs.
Make a list of your current and future health care needs. Include prescription medications or any planned surgeries or health care procedures for the upcoming year.
Review any problems you had with previous benefits plans.
Don’t just focus on the plan premiums. Take note of out-of-pocket expenses such as co-payments, deductibles and any additional charges.
Be sure to pay attention to all your options.