Thank you Dignity Health for sponsoring this post. Enroll in humankindness.
Ah, health insurance and open enrollment… something all of us have to live with yet none of us look forward to dealing with. For those of us who work in Corporate America and buy health insurance through our employer, late October and early November is usually when “Open Enrollment” rolls around. When it does, we all collectively sigh a little bit in our heads. Leave a comment that says “UGH YES” if that’s you! Yes, a year has passed and yes, we have to spend time again scrolling through documents and make life and death decisions …just feels so pesky!
But fear not! I’ve taken my own experience and hours of research and come up with a list of 6 questions to help you navigate this process! To make things more interesting, I’ve got an infographic, a cheat sheet for glossaries, and a simple Youtube video, among other things. I posted 6 questions for you to think about in order to prepare for Open Enrollment… are you ready??
Do you know what aspect of your life Open Enrollment impacts?
Open enrollment is a period when you make selections to choose the best benefits that will help you and your family. Part of this benefits package is health insurance, which is arguably the most important part of your benefits package.
But there are other things that are part of your benefits package that you may want to look into tweaking during open enrollment – life insurance, short-term and long-term disability insurance, child care reimbursement, FSA/HSA, etc. Know the different aspects of open enrollment and which part of your life these benefits impact!
Do you understand all the terms and vocabularies regarding health insurance?
Sometimes, they might as well be speaking a different language. I know for myself in most of my 20’s, I probably didn’t understand half of the nomenclature related to health insurance. Co-pay, deductible, HSA, PPO, HMO… they all escaped me. Just like learning a language, practice and experience make new words stick. So keep a useful glossary like this handy and available during open enrollment.
Also, here is an amazing video that explains some of the common healthcare insurance terms in absolute simplicity:
Do you have big life events coming up?
Depending on your age, gender, employment status, general health state, there are many ways to pick your health insurance coverage. But in general, there are a few life events that would dramatically change what kind of health insurance you would require:
Are you getting married next year & your future spouse might need your insurance?
If you are getting married, your spouse may benefit from your healthcare insurance if, for some reason, she or he doesn’t have their own insurance or has a less favorable plan than yours. You might want to consider what the premium will be for another person. It’s usually more expensive than your own premium. Getting married is one of the “qualified life events” that allows you to add more people to your health insurance plan, but it doesn’t allow you to change the plan itself. So if your future spouse has different medical needs than you, this is the time to consider that!
Are you planning on having a baby biologically or via adoption?
If you are, find out about two things – do you have a specific OB/GYN you want, and research on what kind of medical expenses you need to expect (standard pregnancy & delivery related type of expenses as well as genetic testing if you are a bit older and fall into the high-risk group). Based on your answer, there is a list pregnancy related things you should find out from your insurance company to figure out how to best choose a plan.
Do you plan on having major medical procedures done next year?
If you are, you might want to increase your FSA or HSA contribution, so you have more pre-tax cash hanging around to pay for your planned medical procedure. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,r oughly half of all collection accounts on credit reports are due to medical debt. To the extent that you can prepare, plan for these medical procedures ahead of time!
Does your employer offer a webinar/seminar or benefits fair to go over the details of your options?
If you’re getting health benefits from your employer, around this time (late October & early November) is when they usually host an event where all your employee benefits are explained to you. This is when you go with all your questions ready so you can get one-on-one, individually based answers. Studies have shown that two-thirds of millennials wish they spent more time during open enrollment to look at their selections (see more statistics at the bottom of this post!). Don’t miss your one chance to ask questions and get the answer immediately!
Do you understand the relationship between your lifestyle and your medical needs?
Besides how often you fall sick and how dependent you are on seeing a doctor, there are many other factors in your lifestyle that may change your health insurance plan selection. For example, do you have acne problem and therefore need to see a dermatologist very often? Are you a rock climbing enthusiast and go out into nature to do outdoor climbs a lot, therefore need a plan that will cover your needs in case you get injured? Another factor is your relationship with your physician, whether be it specialty physician or family doctor… do you feel like you have to see this one particular doctor in order to have your medical needs met? If so, you might want to consider choosing a plan in which the doctor is an in-network physician.
Being in California, one of the most interesting things I learned from a study done by Dignity Health is that most Californians don’t choose their insurance plan based on whether their preferred doctors are in the network or not (see infographic at the bottom of the page). This is just something for you to consider.
What are FSA/HSA and how do I know which one I need?
These are some of the most confusing parts of Open Enrollment, as I found in my own experience. FSA and HSA are similar that they both allow you to contribute to an account tax-free so you can spend the money on “qualified medical expenses” such as copay and other prescription costs.
How they are different though and whether you should choose one or the other, takes more time to understand. Basically, HSA is only for people that are on high deductible health plans or HDHP. And if you’re not on that, FSA is the option for you. Here is a more in-depth comparison of the two savings plan if you are interested to dig deeper.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.