Are you ready for enrollment season?
For many working people, benefits enrollment season is coming up very soon. Open enrollment is the period during which you review your benefit options and choose which ones you want to enroll in for next year. These include health insurance, life insurance, and tax-advantaged healthcare benefits accounts, among others. Whether you sign up for benefits through an employer, or choose to enroll through an exchange, you need to be prepared.
Here are a few tips to help you get ready for enrollment season:
Look over your current benefit and health plan coverages
Before you enroll, first review your current coverages and benefits. Take into consideration what you and your family use most and the overall costs.
It’s important to have the past year’s healthcare receipts as a point of reference. With so much to keep in mind when you sign up for insurance and benefits, receipts and Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) from the previous year can help you determine what kind of coverages you’ve used and how much you actually spend. These documents can also help you figure out your other benefit needs, like signing up for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA).
Review your options
The process of choosing a health plan is not the same for everyone because each person has unique health and budget needs. Carefully review your options, and understand the benefits and costs of each plan so you can find the coverage that works best for you. Questions to ask yourself:
- Does your current coverage still meet your needs?
- Will your benefits change next year?
- Does the plan you want fit your budget? Your cost analysis should include the monthly premium, deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.
- Are your medications covered? Even if you don’t expect to change plans, make sure your prescriptions will still be covered next year.
Put enrollment dates on your calendar
Depending on where you get your insurance from, open enrollment isn’t the same for everyone:
- Do you enroll through your employer? Most businesses select a short two to three week period between September and December when you can review and sign up for health benefits for the next year
- If you buy through a state exchange or federal health insurance marketplace, the 2019 open enrollment period runs November 1 to December 15
- For people who need to sign up for Medicare, open enrollment runs from October 15 to December 7 each year
Most plan years begin January 1, though your plan may have a different start date.
Enroll in a tax-advantaged benefit account
In addition to health and life insurance, many companies also offer tax-advantaged benefit plans. If your employer offers an FSA, HSA, or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), you can save money on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses using pre-tax money.
With an FSA or HSA, you contribute money each pay period before taxes and can use it to cover wide-range of IRS approved healthcare expenses. Eligible expenses include copays, deductibles, eye care, dental care, prescription medications, and a lot more. If your employer offers an HRA, the company funds the account and determines how you can spend the money; however, an HRA does not count towards your income.
Your employer may offer other tax-advantaged accounts such as a Dependent Care Assistance Plan (DCAP) or commuter benefits plan. A DCAP, or Dependent Care FSA, allows you to put aside money to cover the cost of child or other dependent care while you work. A commuter benefits plan, which can include transit passes and parking, can help you cover the costs associated with traveling back and forth to work each day.
Check to see if your employer’s plan offers a benefits debit card; a benefits card can reduce how many claims you have to file for reimbursement.
Learn more about tax-advantaged benefits
Fact is, nearly half of all employees don’t understand their healthcare benefits. That’s not a knock against employees; healthcare benefits can be complicated and hard to understand. If your employer offers an FSA or HSA, or other tax-advantaged account mentioned above, and you don’t understand the benefits, ask for more information.
You can also check out CaptainContributor.com. The Captain Contributor employee education program provides a lot of useful information about these benefit accounts. The site features blog articles and Captain Contributor is active throughout the year on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
These tips can help you get ready for enrollment season. Contact your HR or benefits administrator for more information.
DataPath Administrative Services is a third party benefits administrator headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.