32012Dec

What to do during your Health Plan’s Open Enrollment

It’s that time of year again, when many Health Insurance Plans have their Annual Open Enrollment period.

With new regulations in place because of health reform, as well as ever increasing costs of medical care, employees can use all the help they can to understand what they should do during this time.

Employers are making more changes than ever to their benefits plans and the result is that employees need to take extra precautions to assure that they have the benefits coverage they expect, for a price they can afford, during this year’s open enrollment period.

Here is what you need to do if you are an employee in Open Enrollment:

1. Take the time to truly read through your plan materials, including the Summary of Benefits (SBCs) and Summary Plan Designs (SPDs), to make yourself familiar with each of your plan options. Reading each of these materials will give you the detailed plan descriptions you need to decide on the best plan for you and your family in the coming year.  If you have questions (and who doesn’t!?), ask to speak with your company’s HR Department or reach out to your company’s Health Insurance Broker.

2. If your employer offers you the option of a Tax Advantaged health care account, whether  a flexible spending account, health reimbursement account or a health savings account, take a good look at it. These all vary GREATLY in what they offer.  However, all of them can help you save money on qualified medical expenses, some even including dental expenses. Each account has a different set of rules about how and when you can spend the money, but each are worth considering because the savings you’ll see can add up quickly depending on your situation.

3. One of the benefits of health care reform is an extended list of preventive care benefits that must be offered by new health care plans for no cost. Preventive services such as colonoscopy screenings, pap smears and mammograms, well-child visits and flu shots for all children and adults must be offered without out-of-pocket costs “In Network”.

However, these benefits are only for new health plans and don’t apply to “grandfathered” plans that haven’t significantly changed in a few years. Find out if your plan is considered to be “grandfathered” and identify exactly what preventive services are covered for free.

4.  Don’t overlook “Wellness Incentives”!  These incentives may come in the form of medical premium discounts, access to certain low deductible plans or even incentives and prizes. Some employers even offer to put money in an employee’s medical account as an incentive. Take the time to learn everything your employer offers. You may find that you are already leaving money on the table because you have a gym membership or participate in a weight loss program that qualifies for an incentive from your employer.

No matter what changes you may make, if any, during this year’s open enrollment period, don’t let your selection deadlines slip by without action. Doing nothing could end up costing you hundreds in 2013 in higher premium costs, lower coverage, or missed opportunities to optimize your health care dollars. Missing your open enrollment deadline will mean that you may have to wait it out a full year before making changes that can help pad your bank account.