Open Enrollment is Coming: Are You Adequately Covered?

It’s October, which means annual open enrollment opens soon for many people, so now is the perfect time to start re-evaluating your benefit needs. Outside of qualifying events like having a child or switching employers, it’s almost impossible to make a change in your coverage outside of the open enrollment period so it’s critical that you take the time to make the right selections. 

To help you prepare for this year’s open enrollment season, here is a list of questions to consider when choosing your benefits. 

Getting Prepared – The Open Enrollment Process

 If your employer provides coverage, your Human Resources department will likely send out an announcement about when Open Enrollment starts and ends. If you have private insurance, you can check your insurance company’s website to find out about Open Enrollment season. Be sure to mark these dates on your calendar so that you don’t miss them.

 Questions you’ll want to consider about the process:

·        When does open enrollment period begin and end?

·        Do you have access to make changes to your coverage online?

·        Do you have a summary of your coverages and changes?

·        Who is your point of contact if you have questions or want to make changes?

Medical Coverage 

Medical coverage is the biggie. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to make adjustments if necessary or understand changes to your coverage. From a financial standpoint, make sure you aren’t buying more coverage than you and your family needs.

 Providers oftentimes offer various plans at different price points. Sometimes, the plans are exactly the same and the only difference is one covers more for out-of-network expenses. However, if you only use in-network providers, you could likely be saving quite a bit of money for the same coverage by switching to a different plan as an example. 

To determine if you need to make any changes to your coverage in the coming year, here are a few important questions you can consider: 

Questions you’ll want to consider about medical coverage:

·        Is your current plan still offered? If so, is there a rate increase?

·        Is there an alternative plan in place of yours?

·        Was your level of coverage appropriate?

·        Based on the available plans, do you think the one you have meets your needs best?

·        Do you need to add/remove a family member?

·        Based on the available plans, do you think the one you have meets your needs best?

·        Do you need to cancel coverage?

Dental and Vision Coverage 

Dental and vision issues can be expensive. If anything comes up in addition to preventative cleaning and an annual eye exam, it can knock a monthly budget right to the floor. Making sure you are adequately covered for unexpected care can be a huge relief when the need arises.

 

Questions you’ll want to consider about dental coverage:

·        Are you offered dental and vision coverage? If so, what is actually covered? Exams, visits, wellness?

·        If no, do you anticipate needing it this year? And would it be worth buying privately?

·        If you do have coverage, is there a rate increase?

·        If yes, do you need to add/remove coverage?

 

Health Savings Account (HSA) & Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

 A Health Savings Account (HSA) is the most tax advantaged account available. The contributions you make into it are tax-deductible, your money grows tax-free, and withdrawals to pay qualified medical expenses are never taxed. If you have a high-deductible plan, you may be eligible for one of these accounts and can benefit from the triple tax advantage that they offer.

 A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a savings account that allows you to pay for certain out-of-pocket medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. It doesn’t earn interest, but it is funded with pre-tax dollars and can be used on qualified health care costs.

 

Questions you’ll want to consider about your HSA and FSA:

·        Do you have access to an HSA account?

·        If yes, are you maximizing the total amount you can add each year ($6,500 including if your company contributes anything)?

·        Do you have an FSA account?

·        If so, did you use the funds or not have enough?

 

Life Insurance, Legal Plan Services, and Identity Theft Protection

 Some less commonly thought of services that are often offered with your other coverage during open enrollment include life insurance, legal plan services, and identity theft protection. These are usually supplemental and may or may not be covered in-part or in-whole by your employer.

 Supplemental group life insurance is a great way to get lower cost insurance through your company. The downside is that when you leave the company, you lose the insurance. It can be taken with you, but you’ll likely pay a premium to do so. Legal services can be especially helpful and save you money if you are planning on having an estate plan put together. Lastly, identity theft protection is becoming increasing important and not just a nice to have but a standard level of protection I am recommending to all of my clients.

 

Here are the questions you’ll want to consider about these services:

·        Do you have term life insurance? And if so, do you have enough?

·        Is supplemental group term life insurance offered? If so, how do the prices compare to your current coverage or local independent agent?

·        Do you have a basic estate planning package (Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy)?

·        Does your company offer identity theft protection? If not, consider an outside service like LifeLock or PrivacyGuard.

 

Conclusion

Open enrollment season is the perfect time to re-evaluate your needs. Remember, if you don’t make adjustments now, you will have to wait a whole year before you have the ability again. Don’t delay. Make sure your coverage aligns with you and your family’s needs.