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How to Ace Your Company's Open Enrollment This Year

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 13/10/2015 Julie Stich
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Every year around this time, you're asked to make health care and other employee benefit selections for the upcoming year. Your employer may give you a booklet, invite you to an all-staff meeting or send you to a special website. And, once again, you're faced with making decisions that will impact you and your family--and your wallet--throughout 2016. Here are some tips to get you started:
Take your time. Take the time to really read through the materials you receive. Go to face-to-face meetings if you can. It's possible you'll be offered different plan options and coverages this year. The better you understand the changes, the better decisions you'll make.
Take a trip down memory lane. Think back to what happened in your life this year. How often did you and your family members need medical services? What kind? Are any treatments ongoing? Think about any life changes that could affect the benefits you need, like a marriage or divorce, a child going off to college or a spouse losing a job.
Look ahead. Consider what 2016 will look like for you and your family. Are you planning to have a baby? Or knee replacement surgery? A root canal? Will Johnny need braces? New glasses? Keep this in mind as you look at your coverage options.
Dive into the details. Knowing what you needed last year and what you'll need this year will help you choose the right plans and coverage levels. It's important to note if the plans' provider networks have changed. Make sure your doctors are still in the network. Is your chiropractor also covered? Is Johnny's orthodontist in the plan? How much will the plan pay toward braces? Is your spouse's daily prescription drug covered, and are there any limits? Also consider areas of need like access to specialists, mental health care, therapies, complementary and alternative medicine and chronic care. Look at the options offered in all plans like health, dental, vision and disability.
Get out your calculator. Add together the amount you'll need to pay toward your health premium plus deductibles, copayments for prescriptions and doctors' office visits, and coinsurance for services. Understand what you'll be asked to pay if you seek care outside your network. This will give you a clearer picture of how much you're likely to spend. The plan that looks to be the cheapest option may not really be the cheapest for you.
Determine what's right for you. Price isn't the only factor to consider. Check on the quality of the doctors and other providers in the network. And consider your comfort level with risk. If you want your family to be covered for every eventuality, a more traditional plan might be right for you. If you're comfortable taking on some up-front costs, a high-deductible plan with a lower premium might be your plan of choice.
Take advantage of extras. Your employer may offer you the option to reduce your health premiums if you participate in a wellness program or health risk assessment. They may match some or all of the money you save in your 401(k) plan. They might let you set aside tax-deferred money into a health savings account or flexible spending account. An International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans survey found that voluntary benefit offerings are popular among many organizations. Check with your employer to see if they offer voluntary insurance like critical illness, pet, auto and homeowners. They may even offer a group discount and payroll deduction--If these options work for your situation, sign up.

Ask questions. Don't be shy about asking your HR or benefits department to explain something if you're not sure. They're there to help and want you to make the best decisions for your situation.

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