Top 5 Mistakes You Can Make During Open Enrollment
Now that summer is ending and school is beginning, it won’t be long before the busy open enrollment season is upon us. While most of us don’t look forward to wading through benefits descriptions, it’s important to put those feelings aside and invest some thought in the process. Taking time to study your options now could not only save you money, but also affect your health care choices for the coming year.
5 Mistakes to Avoid when Choosing Your Health Coverage.
- Buying on price alone. Finding affordable insurance is getting harder and harder, but buying on price alone is often a mistake. Your monthly premium may be low, but can you really afford that high a deductible? Buying a high deductible plan under the assumption that you are healthy and never need to use doctors is risky. Are you prepared to pay the deductible if the need arises? Can you afford the cost shares that may kick in after the deductible is met? If your employer offers worksheets or modelers for comparing the available plans, take advantage of them and do the math.
- Not considering your family’s situation. Of course, you can’t predict everything that might happen, but you can look at your current health status. If someone in your family has a medical condition, you can take their care plan – upcoming tests, specialist visits, and medications – into account. You will also want to look at your values and attitudes. If you like to be in charge of your care, you might be willing to pay extra for a plan that doesn’t require referrals to specialists.
- Not verifying your providers’ participation status with your health plan. Providers who are considered in plan have a contract. Contracts change and it is not unusual to have providers cancel participation with a health plan. Just because your provider was “in network” and “participating” last year doesn’t necessarily make it so this year. Call the health plan and call your doc to verify. Check your health plan’s website for an up-to-date list of participating providers.
- Renewing into the same benefit plan design. Benefit plans change each year. There may be new plan limits and exclusions. Don’t assume nothing has changed. Pay particular attention to your prescription benefit. Drugs lists often change at the time of open enrollment – impacting the tier that drug is on and how much you will pay out of pocket next time you renew your prescription.
- Not taking advantage of opportunities to offset cost sharing, if offered. A Flexible Spending Account lets you to put aside pre-tax dollars to use for eligible medical expenses. If you can predict some of your deductible and copayment expenses for the coming year (based on your health needs and the plan design you choose) and put them in an FSA, you can save around 25% on your out-of-pocket expenses by paying with pre-tax dollars.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to ask questions. If you don’t understand a benefit offering, ask your Human Resources department. If you’re not sure how much you spent this year, see if you can download your claim history from your health plan’s web site or request a report. Make an informed decision this fall, so you can use your plan with confidence in 2012.