A lackadaisical approach to benefits enrollment could leave you short on coverage or end up costing you more than it should. Gathering information and making time to thoroughly consider your options and needs can help ensure you’re getting the best value from your employer’s benefits package. Approach this year’s open enrollment with these tips in mind.
Get the Most Out of Your Benefits Enrollment
(Family Features) A lackadaisical approach to benefits enrollment could leave you short on coverage or end up costing you more than it should. Gathering information and making time to thoroughly consider your options and needs can help ensure you’re getting the best value from your employer’s benefits package.
Approach this year’s open enrollment with these tips from the experts at Colonial Life in mind:
Take life changes into account. A major event like a birth or marriage makes you eligible to adjust your benefits between enrollment periods, but there are many other factors that may affect your coverage needs. For example, you may not bother with dental coverage for a newborn, but once that child has some teeth and is mobile, it’s a good idea to add coverage in the event a fall damages a tooth.
Be conscious of changes. It’s quite common to allow your benefits to renew automatically when the enrollment period rolls around. This can create problems as plans and coverages often change from year to year. Deductible amounts, office visit co-pays and even categories of coverage can shift from one year to the next. Even if there aren’t changes to the coverage, there may be a new pricing structure or additions to coverage that could benefit you.
Dedicate some time. When signing up for benefits for the first time, most people spend at least a little time reviewing each plan option. If you have your premiums deducted from your paycheck automatically, you probably don’t give a lot of thought to your benefits, especially if you’re relatively healthy. Open enrollment is the time to give them more than a passing thought.
A survey by Colonial Life showed 69% of employees spend less than 60 minutes learning about their benefits choices, but that limited time commitment can ultimately affect overall job satisfaction.
“This can be a huge problem for both employees and their employers, because a lack of engagement with the benefits program leads to lower morale and higher turnover,” said Steven Johnson, vice president of enrollment solutions at Colonial Life.
Instead of a cursory flip through the materials, dedicate some time to thoroughly review all the information and make notes about areas you have questions.
Discuss your options. Benefits can be complicated, and there are a lot of terms and jargon in the insurance world that can make it hard to understand exactly what your benefits will cover. That’s why it’s a good idea to sit down with a knowledgeable benefits counselor to discuss your family and personal financial situation.
Technology may be king for many aspects of life, but the survey found just 11% of employees name the internet as the place they turn to learn about benefits during enrollment each year. However, 76% of employees turn to humans including HR professionals, coworkers, family and friends.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for benefits, but a one-on-one counseling session can help simplify the entire benefits process. A private consultation may help you understand how each benefit election impacts your paycheck, as well as simplifying complex benefit concepts, answering your questions and walking you through the enrollment process.
Learn more about how to maximize your benefits at ColonialLife.com.
To gain a better understanding of your benefits, these definitions from HealthCare.gov can help you identify and recognize some common terms.
Benefits: The health care items or services covered under a health insurance plan.
Coinsurance: The percentage of costs of a covered health care service you pay (20%, for example) after you’ve paid your deductible.
Copayment: A fixed amount ($20, for example) you pay for a covered health care service after you’ve paid your deductible.
Deductible: The amount you pay for covered health care services before your insurance plan starts to pay.
Flexible Spending Account: An arrangement through your employer that lets you pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses with tax-free dollars.
Health Savings Account: A type of savings account that lets you set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses.
Network: The facilities, providers and suppliers your health insurer or plan has contracted with to provide health care services.
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Often, employees enroll in medical insurance plans for protection against unpredictable events, sudden illness or serious health concerns that may result in expensive medical bills. Getting the most from your benefits requires understanding coverages and deductibles, as well as taking advantage of voluntary benefits, like dental, vision and hearing, to stay healthy and save money.
4 Ways to Stretch Your Health Benefits
Avoid surprises. About 91 percent of adults in the United States are confused about what their benefits cover, according to a recent Harris poll. The best starting point is to review your plan so you understand the care and services covered. If you have a high-deductible plan, you will need to pay for most or a percentage of the health costs until reaching the individual or family deductible. Be prepared to pay any copayments or deductibles the plan requires before receiving care. Also, before scheduling appointments, ask for a cost estimate for the appointment, tests or service.
Preventive dental and vision. Many voluntary plans, such as dental and vision, offer preventive exams, such as routine cleanings and vision exams, that are fully covered. That’s because these preventive exams help to maintain and improve overall health and help reduce health costs. Voluntary coverage is affordable and many plans offer added incentives. For example, coverage for LASIK, dental, vision and hearing benefits can increase from one year to the next for those who continue to enroll and use their benefits. Members could earn monetary rewards to use for dental, vision, LASIK, orthodontia and hearing benefits, care materials and services simply by using their benefits and keeping the benefits paid out under a specified amount.
Medical screenings. Routine health screenings, such as mammograms, immunizations, colonoscopy procedures and prostate cancer screenings, which may be covered fully or in part by your medical coverage, can help you stay healthy and lower health care costs.
Get paid to save. Many employers encourage employees to save money by matching a percentage of the amount the employee contributes to the plan. If available, enroll in a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account to set aside money to pay for health care costs.
Learn more about the questions to ask when reviewing benefit plans at ameritasinsight.com.
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(BPT) - As the new administration and Congress settle into office, many organizations are working hard to put America’s 21 million veterans at the top of the nation’s “to-do” list.
“Veterans share a common thread — regardless of where they served or for how long — they are driven to protect our country and ensure freedom for all citizens,” says DAV (Disabled American Veterans) National Commander Dave Riley. “At the same time, they face unique challenges, from health problems related to their military service to translating their job skills into meaningful employment opportunities. It’s our nation’s duty to support veterans once they return home.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that 20 percent of veterans who served since 9/11 are estimated to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Twenty veterans take their lives every day, most of whom never seek help from the VA, and many veterans struggle to find employment, often leading to homelessness.
To help change the lives of countless veterans and their families, DAV has suggested three priorities for our country’s leaders in 2017:
* Ensure veterans have access to quality and timely health care, including effective mental health services. Changes in the health care system for veterans are critical according to leading veterans service organizations like DAV and VFW, as well as bipartisan leaders in Congress. They all agree the best path forward is to create local, high-performing health care networks, led by the VA, which combine the best of VA with the best of community care.
* Give needed benefits to the caregivers of veterans. While caregivers for veterans who served after 9/11 receive benefits and resources, caregivers of veterans who served in earlier conflicts, such as World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, do not receive them. This law must be amended and made inclusive.
* Educate employers about the value of hiring veterans, particularly those with disabilities. A recent survey of employers released by DAV, Monster.com and Military.com reveals 30 percent of employers worry about hiring veterans with PTSD. However, the vast majority of employers who have hired veterans with disabilities report it’s been a positive and productive experience.
You can support U.S. veterans.
You can be a positive voice for veterans and support changes in your communities. Start by speaking up on important veteran issues and write your elected officials in Congress. Volunteer with your local VA hospital or drive veterans to medical appointments. And, if you own a business or are a hiring manager, be sure your organization considers veterans’ unique talents and strengths.
America made a promise to care for its veterans, those men and women who sacrificed for everyone's freedoms. Now the nation’s leaders must live up to that promise. For more information about important veteran issues and how you can help, visit www.dav.org.
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