open enrollment

3 Easy Steps to Take During Open Enrollment Season

Open enrollment season is in full swing, and that means you have the next month or so to decide what to do about key benefits your employer provides.

Some people dread open enrollment season, because they think they have to painstakingly pore over mounds of healthcare paperwork, and then spend days upon days trying to figure out what to do.

While it’s true that you’ll need to devote at least some time checking over your healthcare offerings, it’s also true that the process needn’t be painful or overly time-consuming.

Here are three quick and easy steps you can take to make the most out of open enrollment season, all while improving your personal health and your family’s financial well-being.

1.    Review your existing healthcare benefits

According to research from Aon Hewitt, 55% of employees simply default to their current benefit coverage for the coming year, instead of actively reassessing their plan options. But this could be a big mistake – especially if your needs have changed, your family circumstances are different, or even if your old coverage has just gotten too costly.

So don’t spend a ton of time on this chore. But do give your current healthcare benefits a serious review. It’s a critical “to do” task for open enrollment season.

As you look everything over, be sure to keep an eye on what your employer is telling you that’s different for 2013 versus what you already have (or had) in 2012. Look at your healthcare spending for 2012 and determine what, if anything is likely to change for the upcoming year.

If you decide to switch plans or change healthcare programs, don’t base your decision solely on cost. Obviously, it’s important to have affordable coverage. However, you should also think about the overall quality of the benefits for which you’ll be paying and receiving.

For instance, if you know you’d like to get pregnant or have a baby in the upcoming year, don’t switch into a basic, low-cost plan that doesn’t even provide prenatal and maternity coverage.

2.    Consider contributing to a Health Savings Account

Do you participate in a Flexible Spending Account offered on the job? If so, evaluate whether you’ve been socking away too much money, or perhaps not enough based on what you actually spent this past year.

For those with a Health Savings Account, check to see if you have any remaining balance that you’ll need to apply to your 2013 expenses. Realize also that in 2013, new federal limits will kick in regarding how much money you can contribute to a Health Savings Account.

As of this writing (in October 2012), most U.S. employers let their workers contribute as much as $5,000 to an HSA. In practical terms, though, most people don’t come anywhere near that level of contribution.

Still, in 2013, the federal government will impose new caps on contributions to Health Savings Accounts. Starting in 2013, the maximum contribution you can make to an HSA will be $2,500. Previously, there was no federal cap on these contributions.

3.    Resolve to get healthy and save money

One easy thing you can do during open enrollment season is to ask your boss or your human resources specialist about any economic perks your company provides to its healthiest workers.

Believe it or not, many employers offer substantial financial incentives – such as reduced health care premiums, lower deductibles, and free medical screenings – to workers who get healthy. So now is a great time to start an exercise program and lose a few pounds, stop smoking, or begin eating better to lower your cholesterol.

Don’t wait until January when you’re trying to make some big New Year’s resolution. Launch into a health and fitness regiment now and get a healthy head start on some good habits that will also put a few dollars back in your pocket.

By spending just a bit of time this open enrollment season on the things that matter most, you’ll boost your health, as well as your financial wellness in 2013 and beyond.

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