October is traditionally the time when open enrollment begins at many companies for health and retirement benefits. These benefits may include 401(k) plans, health insurance, group life insurance and long term care plans. Employers generally provide materials that explain available programs, and in the case of more than one health insurance alternative, a side by side comparison is usually provided.
Sadly, it’s not that easy to select health insurance based on broad comparisons. And although some basic questionnaires and calculators with accompanying results may be available, employees undoubtedly have questions that aren’t asked or addressed. Most employers offer a high deductible health plan (HDHP) and a health savings account (HSA). If there are several options, the alternatives frequently differ from state by state. The premiums will often vary from plan to plan even though the coverage looks identical.
Why? If the plans look the same, why not take the plan with the least expensive premium? Wouldn’t that automatically reduce your health care costs?
Not exactly. Before selecting your health insurance coverage during open enrollment, use the following checklist:
- Was I satisfied with my coverage this year? Is my employer offering it again?
- Have my family’s needs changed over the last year?
- Will my current health care have the same coverage and doctors?
- Do all plans cover particular treatments (i.e. fertility) in the same way?
- My spouse’s employer now offers health insurance. How do we decide?
- Should I cover my college student or use the college’s health care?
There are a myriad of questions to consider. Keep in mind that the cost of health insurance to an employer can be dependent on several variables including state, coverage and possibly income bands. Health insurance, like life insurance, is state regulated so that the carriers accessible in your state may be limited.
As soon as open enrollment materials are distributed, look carefully at what’s being offered and make an informed decision.
For additional information, contact Ellen at EAB HealthWorks.