Open Enrollment Best Practices

Making wise decisions about your benefits takes some planning. By selecting benefits that provide the best care and coverage, you can optimize their value and minimize the impact to your budget.

Many employees get frustrated when asked to select benefits for themselves and their families because these decisions can be complicated. It is often believed to be easier to elect the same coverage that you had during the previous plan year. However, last year’s coverage may not suit you again, and there may be new plans that better meet your needs. Follow these tips to make the best benefit decisions for you and your family.

  • Assess your health and the health of your family members before making any selections. For example, plans with higher monthly premiums and lower co-pays and deductibles are best for those who will use a lot of health care services throughout the year. But healthy individuals and families can save a lot by selecting a plan with low premiums and a higher deductible.
  • Weigh all of your coverage options carefully before selecting a plan. If you are married and your spouse also has employer-provided healthcare coverage, each of you should pull your plan details and compare before making a decision that could cost unnecessary insurance premiums.
  • Examine how you allocated benefits last year beyond just health care – retirement, dental, flexible spending accounts, etc. If you invested in some of these benefits in the past and did not use them, consider omitting this time around.
  • Consider your lifestyle when considering voluntary benefits. No one likes to pay for things they don’t need, but if you or your family are active and participate in sports or other types of physical activity, these ancillary policies could come in handy for say, a chipped tooth or broken glasses.
  • Attend all company meetings designed to explain new benefit offerings. These venues are great for learning the ins and outs of new plans and changes to existing plans.
  • Use plan selection and comparison tools. These resources can analyze your claims from the previous year and then determine which plan would be most appropriate in the coming year.
  • Before selecting a plan, make sure that your doctor and hospital are part of the network of “covered health care providers.” If they are not part of your network, you could pay a lot more for their services.  
  • Consider all your recent life events before choosing a plan. did you get married recently? Is a baby on the way? You may consider picking a plan that costs more because more services will be covered at the doctor’s office.
  • Participate in wellness and disease management programs! These programs not only help you to become healthier but you could also receive discounts on your health benefits.
  • Take advantage of tax-free benefits such as health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and dependent care spending accounts. These savings vehicles can provide tremendous tax advantages, as contributions are made with before-tax income. Reimbursements from these accounts are also tax-free. They can be used to pay for prescriptions, deductibles and health-related costs that are not covered by your insurance (braces, eyeglasses, etc.). HSAs are also a great way to save for future medical costs.
  • Are you saving enough to be comfortable during retirement? If not, change your retirement plan withholdings. Take advantage of your company match (if your employer offers this benefit) in your retirement account. This is free money for the future.
  • Don’t wait to make your benefits selections! As soon as your employer announced open enrollment, start comparing benefits immediately! Don’t miss your deadlines!

The best rule of thumb is to make a list of your benefit priorities to determine which plan will serve you best. Then, let the selection process begin.