LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. – Open enrollment is around the corner, which means U.S. employees will soon need to prepare to make some important decisions about their health care benefits.
“Employees should actively review their health coverage options to be sure they are selecting a plan that will best meet their needs in the coming year. While most employees are not likely to see significant changes in 2016, costs are likely to change,” noted Craig Rosenberg, Health & Welfare Benefits Administration practice leader at Aon Hewitt. “Aon estimates the average employee spent more than $5,000 in premiums and out-of-pocket costs this year, so it’s important to be proactive and carefully review the options available.”
To help employees optimize their health care and other benefits choices, Aon Hewitt offers nine tips this enrollment season:
- Participate in the enrollment process. Your employer may be making changes so the plan you chose last year might look different than it does for the coming year. Making an active decision during enrollment will help you avoid being defaulted into a health care plan that doesn’t meet your needs—or even worse—leaves you with no coverage at all.
- Determine the best source of coverage for your dependents. Coverage may be available to your dependents through your plan, your spouse or partner’s plan, or their own plan, if adult children. Plan design (e.g., deductible, services covered), provider networks, and paycheck costs can vary so it’s important to carefully review and compare these plans to ensure you are choosing the coverage you need at the optimal cost.
- Reassess your and your dependents’ health care needs. Reserve some time before open enrollment begins to take a fresh look at your health care needs for the year ahead. Consider how much you’ve spent out-of-pocket (e.g., deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance), the number of doctor visits you typically make and the cost of regular prescription drugs.
If you are participating in a Health Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA), evaluate if your contribution is too little or too much based on your actual and anticipated expenses. Be sure you understand what happens if you don’t use up your full balance for health care expenses you incur during the year.
- Don’t buy on price alone. The cost to purchase your health plan is just one part of the decision-making equation. Consider how much you’ll spend out-of-pocket to use the coverage – for example, meeting your deductible, paying for office visits or prescriptions. Like any insurance plan, it’s important to buy the right amount of coverage based on your needs – buying too much or too little coverage could cost you money.
- Explore other health plan choices offered by your employer. It’s easy to get comfortable with the plan you’ve been enrolled in for years but the combination of your changing needs and new or updated plans available from your employer mean there could be other choices you should consider.
For example, many employers offer Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHPs). CDHPs often have lower premiums, and a growing number of employers are making these plans more attractive options for you to consider. Of the companies that offer CDHPs, many subsidize premiums for these plans at a higher rate than other plan options.
CDHPs may include a higher deductible but they are often paired with Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) or Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which you can use to help pay for eligible out-of-pocket health care costs. Funds you contribute can earn interest and grow tax-free. In some cases, your employer may also make contributions to your HSA.
- Evaluate your plan’s provider network ― Most employers provide access to tools that let you review which doctors participate with each health plan. Make a list of your family’s doctors and use these tools to verify whether they are in-network for health plan choices you are considering.
- Take advantage of opportunities to improve your health and lower your health costs. Most employers offer tools and programs such as health risk questionnaires and biometric screenings (e.g., blood pressure and cholesterol screenings) to help you understand more about your health. You may be able to take advantage of a financial incentive from your employer for doing so, typically ranging from $50 to $500. Some employers offer an even greater reward to employees who take action, such as comply with medications or participate in health coaching. The incentive amounts are typically greater in these cases: 44 percent of companies offer incentives of more than $500!
- Take an additional step if you are enrolled in COBRA. If you are enrolled in COBRA coverage that will continue into next year, you’ll also be eligible to participate in the open enrollment process. If you do not have other coverage available (such as through a new employer), consider coverage available through the Marketplaces that were established by the Affordable Care Act (Health Care Reform). You may find more cost effective choices and may be eligible for government subsidies. Visit healthcare.gov to learn more.
- Take a “health and wealth” view to spend your dollars wisely. It’s important to look holistically at your health and financial wellbeing, including health care, income protection (e.g., life and disability insurance), and retirement planning. Does your spending reflect your needs and priorities? For example, if you aren’t contributing to your 401(k) plan, now may be the time to start. Beginning to save earlier in your career helps to ensure you’re on track to meet your long-term savings goals.
For further information, please contact the Aon Hewitt PR team: Meg Cotiguala, 312-459-6362 or Maurissa Kanter, 847-442-0952.
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