The workplace annual benefits open enrollment is just around the corner. The time varies, but it is usually a two-week period between September and December. This is the time when employees have the chance to assess the benefits they receive through employment-based group health insurance coverage. Your goal during this time is probably to see whether a different option is available that could mean lower out-of-pocket costs. If you don’t look during this open enrollment, you’ll have to wait until next fall to change your coverage.
According to Cynthia Weidner, vice president of HighRoads, with employers adjusting the health care benefits they are offer every year, employees should grab this opportunity to carefully assess their current coverage. If they are not satisfied with current coverage, they may be able to switch to a plan that would better suit their health care needs and/or find a price that they can better afford.
Below are four tips that you can follow to help you compare your options.
- Read the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC). Under the health care reform law, employers are required to provide an SBC in order to make it easier for employees to select a health insurance plan. This document is supposed to clearly explain in an understandable manner the limitations, coverage, and premiums of each plan offered. Employers can post this information online or they can give out a printed copy that you can study at home or during your free time.
- Assess the cost of all available plans. Insurance companies use different standards when it comes to pricing their plans, and benefits can vary within certain limits.
- Health Savings Accounts. If your employer offers plans that allow you to open a Health Savings Account (HSA), this offers several tax advantages.Money in the account can grow with tax-free earnings. Withdrawals to pay for dental or health care, as long as services are on the approved list, remain untaxed. If you contribute to your HSA, you can deduct that amount from your taxable income when you file. If you and your employer contribute, be sure not to exceed the IRS-set annual limit on HSA contributions.
- Check the new health care law mandates. If you have a health insurance plan that was “grandfathered in” when the Affordable Care Act became law, you might be missing out on a lot of benefits. Many types of recommended preventive health care services are covered with no out-of-pocket costs.
Wiley Long is President of HSA for America, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people purchasing individual and family health insurance plans.