Thursday, 21 September 2023 13:24

Five Considerations for Open Enrollment

By James Cox, CFP, ChFC, BFA | Business
Five Considerations for Open Enrollment

For many employees fall season is open enrollment season.  Open enrollment season is a crucial time for employees, as it offers the opportunity to review and select benefits that will impact their health, finances, and overall well-being for the coming year. Making informed decisions during this period can lead to significant benefits down the road. To help you navigate open enrollment effectively, here are the top five considerations every employee should keep in mind:

1. Health Plan Options: One of the most critical decisions during open enrollment is selecting the right health insurance plan. Take the time to carefully evaluate the options available to you. Consider factors like premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and coverage. Assess your own healthcare needs and those of your family members. If you have ongoing medical conditions or anticipate significant healthcare expenses, a plan with lower out-of-pocket costs might be a better choice. Alternatively, if you’re generally healthy and want to save on premiums, a high-deductible plan with a health savings account (HSA) might be a viable option.

2. Additional Benefits: Beyond health insurance, open enrollment often includes other benefits such as dental and vision insurance, life insurance, disability coverage, and retirement plans. Evaluate your current coverage in these areas and assess whether any changes are necessary. For example, if you wear glasses or contacts, upgrading your vision insurance could be beneficial. Similarly, reviewing and potentially increasing your life insurance coverage may be crucial if your family’s financial situation has changed.

3. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): FSAs and HSAs are tax-advantaged accounts that can help you save money on healthcare expenses. FSAs allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars for eligible medical expenses, while HSAs are paired with high-deductible health plans and offer both tax savings and investment opportunities. During open enrollment, consider whether an FSA or HSA is right for you based on your anticipated healthcare expenses. Keep in mind that HSA funds can roll over from year to year, making them an attractive option for building long-term savings.

4. Wellness Programs and Incentives: Many employers offer wellness programs and incentives to encourage healthy lifestyles among employees. These programs may include gym memberships, smoking cessation programs, weight management initiatives, or wellness challenges. Take advantage of these opportunities to improve your health while potentially reducing your healthcare costs. In some cases, participating in wellness programs can lead to lower premiums or other financial incentives.

5. Read the Fine Print: Before finalizing your benefit selections, carefully read all plan documents, including the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) and the Summary Plan Description (SPD). Pay close attention to any changes in coverage, costs, or provider networks. Ensure you understand the terms and conditions of your benefits, including when coverage begins, how to file claims, and what services are covered. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your HR department or benefits provider if you have questions or need clarification.

In conclusion, open enrollment is an opportunity for employees to make important decisions about their healthcare and financial well-being. By considering these top five factors – health plan options, additional benefits, FSAs and HSAs, wellness programs, and reading the fine print – you can make informed choices that align with your individual needs and goals. Take the time to review your options, seek guidance if necessary, and make selections that will support your overall well-being in the year ahead.

James T. Cox, CFP®, ChFC®, BFA™, is the Senior Vice President of Advanced Planning at Continuum Wealth Advisors in Saratoga Springs. Continuum Wealth Advisors, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor registered through the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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