Fall is a season of change. As the colors of mother nature begin to shift from various shades of green to warm tones of orange, yellow and red so marks the beginning of open enrollment for many Americans. With the change of season, many of us begin to prepare for changes to our benefits. Whether you are still working or enjoying the ease of retirement now is the time to review your health and insurance benefits for the upcoming year.
Changes to health insurance and other benefits typically can be completed only during an open enrollment period. There are exceptions, but this specified period of time each year allows covered individuals to review changes to their coverage and out-of-pocket costs for the upcoming year.
Open enrollment for Medicare and the Health Insurance Marketplace occurs each fall. However, enrollment periods for employer-sponsored plans and private insurance can vary so be sure to consult your HR department or plan provider for your specific dates, though many occur towards the tail end of the year.
What to Consider
For most individuals, health insurance makes up the largest component of their employee benefits package. Be sure to consider any personal life changes that may have occurred over the year or that you anticipate for the upcoming coverage year. Even if you don’t have any personal changes to your situation or insurance needs, your plan and coverage itself could be changing.
Changes to coverage can vary from year to year and it’s important to evaluate your expected needs and compare your new plan to see if there are any coverage gaps or modifications that need to be addressed. For example, coverage for things like braces or pediatric therapies can change from one year to the next as well as in and out-of-network doctors. This can have a big impact on your overall finances especially if you or your family members need this coverage.
Changes to cost can show up in various ways. Your premiums, co-pays, and deductibles can all fluctuate with a new plan year and impact your take-home pay. Be sure to know what those costs are so you aren’t surprised.
If you and your spouse each have employer health plans, you should also closely evaluate new plans and compare your best options. Changes to cost or coverage could mean that it would be more beneficial for you each to stay on your own employer plan or for one of you to switch to the same plan, again depending on your family situation and needs. If you have children or dependents, it is also good to consider which plan can provide the best coverage at the best rates.
Health Savings Accounts
Many employers today offer some type of health savings or flexible spending account in their benefits package. In general, these tax-advantaged accounts can be a great way to help with medical expenses. These accounts all you to use pre-tax money to cover out-of-pocket expenses, however there are limitations. Typically, you must use the money by year-end, or you lose it, so even though these accounts have many advantages you must be mindful when making your selections, so you don’t lose money.
So, when you get the email about open enrollment this year, it’s worth it to take some time and look at what you’re being offered – compare plans, weigh the costs, and if you need help, we’re always here for you.