How To Set Yourself Up for a Successful Open Enrollment

Choosing a health plan and other benefits is a big deal. Prepare and make the most out of your selections with these tips.

A photo of a healthcare enrollment form.

Unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, open enrollment is the one time of year in which you can add, cancel, or modify your health insurance plan.

While open enrollment will vary depending on where you purchase insurance from, these general recommendations can help you prepare for this important time.

Deadlines

Individuals and families should be aware of deadlines for health plans offered by an employer, spouse’s employer, the Insurance Marketplace, Medicare, or applicable sources.

While the enrollment period for government-sponsored plans is usually over 30 days long, it’s commonly two to four weeks for employer-sponsored plans. That time can come and go quickly, so it’s best to start thinking about your optimal coverage level ahead of time.

Health Insurance Plans

When deciding on health insurance, you’ll need to consider how many dependents you have, the medical needs of each of the insured, and the costs and benefits associated with each plan.

In general, a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan offers maximum benefits for in-network coverage in exchange for a higher premium and lower deductible. A High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), on the other hand, will generally have a lower premium, higher deductible, and a higher co-insurance after the deductible is met.

If you’re expecting significant health care expenses in the year to come, you can use your current insurance provider’s cost estimator tool to decide which plan makes most sense. If you don’t anticipate lots of medical expenses, you might prefer a high-deductible health plan, especially if your employer contributes to a Health Savings Account (HSA) on your behalf.

Special Savings Accounts

You might have the option to contribute to an HSA or Flexible Savings Account (FSA). With these accounts, pre-tax contributions can be withdrawn tax-free for eligible healthcare expenses for you, your spouse, or qualifying dependent. This helps reduce taxable income for the year.

The most notable difference is that unused funds are forfeited at the end of the year under an FSA account. In comparison, HSA contributions roll over from year to year; other HSA perks include tax-free growth and the ability to use funds penalty-free for non-medical expenses at age 65.

Retirement Accounts

While you can likely enroll and make changes to a retirement plan throughout the year, open enrollment gives you an opportunity to review your portfolio, speak to a professional, and modify contributions. Most financial advisors recommend you contribute 10% to 20% of your salary to a retirement plan.

If your employer matches contributions up to a certain percent, work your way up to contributing enough to receive the full match; that’s a great return on your money. Then aim to increase contributions at least annually and with every opportunity you get (promotion, bonus, raise, etc.) until your contribution goal is met.

Employer-Sponsored Benefits

If participating in an employer’s open enrollment, you might have to pick among other benefits like dental, vision, disability and life insurance, and ancillary or voluntary benefits. When evaluating your options, it’s important to think about you and your loved ones’ needs.

How much coverage would you need to purchase to avoid a significant financial disruption or what can you do to avoid deteriorating health? Routine dental and vision exams, for instance, can help avoid costly expenses in the future. Insurance is all about protecting yourself and loved ones from uncertainty.

For example, if you’re a sole financial provider or make significant financial contributions to your household, life insurance is likely a necessity. It’s ideal to buy enough coverage to pay debts and leave enough money to help your loved ones thrive should something happen to you.

Be on the lookout for announcements regarding open enrollment; if applicable, reach out to your Human Resources department if you have questions.

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