Before the year's end, millions of Americans will be asked to make important decisions about their benefits packages, including healthcare benefits. Open Enrollment — also called Open Season and Annual Enrollment — is a period of time, often starting in November and ending in December, where employees can make changes to their healthcare benefits at will. (Open Season this year for federal employees runs from November 1 through December 15; it's one of the shorter seasons on record.) Once Open Enrollment ends, that's it: you're locked into the benefits you have ... or don't have. The exception to this rule is if you experience a "life event," such as a birth, death, marriage, or a job loss.
David Ossam, Hanscom FCU's chief human resources officer and general counsel, explained: "Let's say during the year you want to add your spouse to your dental plan because you find out he or she has some expensive dental work coming up. If it's outside of open enrollment and there's been no life event, then you won't be able to make that addition. But if your spouse has lost coverage, such as through unemployment, then you could."
Analyzing the pros and cons of benefit packages can be a tedious and confusing task, but Ossam suggested a quick and relatively easy three-step strategy of looking back, looking forward, and looking side-to-side to ensure you make sound benefit decisions for 2019:
- Looking Back, ask yourself these questions: What were your out-of-pocket costs like in 2018? Were you able to meet your financial obligations or were things like your healthcare out-of-pocket costs or daycare fees a struggle? Did you have healthcare issues last year that are finally resolved? A child who will not need daycare anymore now that she's in school full time?
- Looking Forward, ask yourself these questions: Do you have any anticipated medical expenses in 2019 that you didn't have in 2018? How will your financial obligations be different in 2019? Do you have expenses coming up where it makes sense to increase your contributions to a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)?
- Looking Side-to-Side, ask yourself: Will my current healthcare plan meet my needs going forward? Would it be better to move to a more robust plan with a higher premium, or am I healthy enough to get by with less coverage with a lower premium?
By asking yourself these simple questions about your past and future benefit needs, then taking a look at what your current plan offers, you can make a relatively well-informed decision that'll carry you through the following year without any surprises.
Looking for additional advice and guidance during Open Enrollment/Open Season? We have an assortment of tools to help you and your team navigate those waters. If you're an employer, we can stop by with ice cream as a quick pick-me-up for your staff, we can provide Lunch and Learn seminars for your employees (yes, that’s a free service with free lunch!), and we can set up a table (with giveaways) to provide employees with information on our products and services. If you're an employee, tell your Human Resources Department we're here to help at no cost to them! We're booking now, so we invite you to contact Maria Porto, AVP of Partner Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org today.