Football is in full swing, Fall breezes are in the air, and the ubiquitous pumpkin spice flavoring is showing up in everything from lattes to candles to donuts. So, that means … Open Enrollment time is coming! Ok, I’ll curb my enthusiasm.
Mr. Serious gets a little excited about this stuff because he likes all things benefits. While I know that’s weird, he’s the family go-to on all things around selecting a plan. I asked him to help with this list and he wants to encourage you to avoid the making the WORST THREE MISTAKES you can make during Open Enrollment.* (Meaning, money. Because when it comes to selecting your benefits, the wrong plan can end up costing you a lot more money!)
#1– Just Stick With What You Currently Have
Human beings are resistant to change, I get it. But sticking with the same health plan or benefit elections that you have this year, “just because,” is a bad move. You could end up like a toddler with a poopy diaper, you could get it changed, but it’s warm and it’s mine so I’ll stick with it… Yuck (thank you Mr. Serious for that delectable comparison).
Plan coverage can change from year to year, your health situation can change or another likely scenario is that you have been in a plan that doesn’t fit your health needs for years and you have been leaving money on the table. Don’t feel stuck. Take action!
#2 – Try To Make Your Decisions Without Help
Gone are the days of getting a giant paper packet of information in the mail, then using that as the only source of information to make you Open Enrollment decisions. You should evaluate your options by estimating your costs for the upcoming year, which includes doctor costs, prescription drugs and any planned/ expected procedures, such as a birth, knee surgery or that predictable annual visit to the allergist when you can’t stop sneezing.
However, that can get a little complicated with just a pencil and paper or calculator. You can use a spreadsheet like the one we have created to help (you can download it and plug in your appropriate numbers to help you make your decision.* Or, even better, your employer or insurance company could offer a “fancy” calculator that will do the math for you. Check to see if your employer offers a tool and use that.
The key is – ASK FOR HELP – don’t get stuck on a question or calculation and give up and revert to mistake #1. That stinks. (remember the poopy diaper analogy?)
#3 – Ignore The Tax Savings of HSAs and FSAs
“What S.A.’s?” These are Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), which many employers offer so that their employees can pay out-of-pocket health expenses with tax-free money. I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty on these, but if you’re in the 25% tax bracket (and a lot of you are) and you contribute $2,500 to an FSA or HSA — you’ll save $625 on your annual Federal tax bill. Would you walk past that money on the street? No. Well, figuratively bend over and pick it up by using one of the “S.A.’s” my friend.
Take home message? Make sure you are looking at all of your options and taking advantage of everything being offered by your employer.
Have you made any mistakes when signing up for benefits that you won’t make again?
*Disclaimer: These are opinions. You need to make the selection that works best for you and your family. We cannot be held liable for the benefits plan decision you make. Just want to get that out in the open! Thank you to UHC for sponsoring this post. All thoughts are our own!