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It is that time of year again, no not tax season I meant open enrollment. It is almost as dreaded as tax season, especially when your going at it blindly. Insurance may not be the most exciting thing to talk about but, take it from me, it is so important to take these few minutes of your time. Me and my husband are presently uninsured and it is very costly to be without any coverage. Financially we can not afford it, but I am thankful that the kids are insured under their dad’s insurance.
What is Open Enrollment? It is that one time of year when employees can make changes to their benefits options. So many people do not understand their benefits or options that may be available to them. Now is the time to learn, however, because open enrollment only happens once a year so you need to be ready! During this time you can freely make changes to your insurance policies without having to prove you have a “qualifying event” (such as birth of child, divorce, marriage, etc.). This is also the time when you can sign up for supplemental insurance. For the majority of companies open enrollment takes place at the end of the calendar year, but it can be different for different companies.
Every year during open enrollment you definitely need to re-look at all the options based on the prior year’s coverage vs. needs and this is when you need to make any changes instead of blindly just signing up for the same coverages each year. Aflac wants to raise awareness of Open Enrollment and make sure everyone is taking advantage of this time period to ask the right questions and get the right coverage for their families. Talk to your human resource department or ask to speak with the agent or broker in charge of writing your policy.
Aflac’s Open Enrollment Survey found that 69 percent of workers said their employer did not communicate changes coming to their benefits package. That’s why you should always go to HR and ask questions. However, businesses are feeling the same heat. Only nine percent surveyed indicated that they are ready for the major reforms to healthcare policies.
Communication and education are key. Make sure you ask questions and get the answers you need to better understand your insurance policies. Aflac has some great resources for Open Enrollment education. If you are overwhelmed with information, call your insurance company and they can provide you with needed answers.
Here are the Top Tips
Prepare ahead of time: Be aware of annual insurance policy changes and compare your new benefits package to your policy from the year before. Do your homework to ensure you choose the right policy that fits your needs and make sure that all of the health insurance costs you’re responsible for are within your budget. Also, review the deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for health care services and pharmacy purchases you’ll be responsible for paying to ensure your plan offers the coverage you need.
Don’t make assumptions: Keep in mind that if your company hasn’t made any material changes to its health insurance plan since health care reform legislation was passed in 2010, it may be exempt for now from offering widely discussed essential health benefits, including free preventive services. Ask your HR manager if your policy options changed to include new benefits made available by health care reform.
Check your spouse’s benefits package: Your employer doesn’t have to offer insurance to your spouse and as costs increase, more companies are cutting this option. Even if your employer does offer your spouse insurance, the company is not obligated to pay anything toward the premium. If your spouse has access to employer-sponsored health insurance through his or her job, it may make the most financial sense to purchase two individual policies as opposed to one family policy.
Don’t double up: Health care reform legislation requires plans in the individual and small group markets to offer essential health benefits like pediatric vision and dental and, chronic disease management services. Check all aspects of your major medical plan so you know what is covered and what isn’t.
Examine premium costs carefully: Cheaper isn’t always better, since plans with the lowest monthly premiums likely mean you’ll pay more in co-insurance and receive less coverage.
Consider supplemental insurance such as accident, hospital or critical illness plans to help reduce rising health care expenses.
This open enrollment season, take the initiative. Make sure you and your family have the coverage you need to maintain your lifestyle even if the unexpected happens. You can find out more about open enrollment and how to be ready with Aflac’s Open Enrollment Resources.