Picking a health insurance plan requires more than choosing between two or three options.
For many people, the process feels like visiting a new country where you don’t understand the language.
In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management found that 49 percent of employees describe making decisions about their health insurance as “very stressful.”
The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how you can navigate the open enrollment process like a pro.
How to take the stress out of health insurance open enrollment
If your company’s efforts to simplify the open enrollment process aren’t helpful, use these steps to make it less painful.
1. Brush up on your terminology
Unless you work in the health care industry, it’s likely that open enrollment season is the only time you spend reading health insurance jargon. Of course, that doesn’t mean you understand it.
To help you prepare for what’s to come, here are some definitions of basic terms you’ll come across.
Copay: This is what you pay every time you visit the doctor or emergency room, if applicable. There can be different copays for different types of doctors, so if you regularly see a specialist, double-check what you’ll pay.
Deductible: This is the amount you pay before your insurance kicks in. Typically, copays don’t count toward your deductible. Also, there might be a deductible for each person on the plan as well as a family deductible for everyone together.
Coinsurance: Once you’ve reached your deductible, you’re not out of the woods quite yet. The insurance company typically requires that you pay coinsurance at that point. A common coinsurance figure is 80/20, meaning you pay 20 percent of the bill and the insurance company pays the remaining 80 percent.
Out-of-pocket maximum: This is the maximum amount the insurance company requires you to pay for health care-related expenses for the year. Once you reach this number, the insurer pays 100 percent of your medical bills.
2. Know what changes are coming
It’s unlikely that your health insurance plan will always stay the same. As health care costs rise, insurance companies might make changes to premiums, deductibles, or coverage.
In other cases, your human resources (HR) department might switch the company’s benefits provider, which can result in better terms.
Your HR department typically sends information about available plans for the upcoming year before open enrollment begins. Read through the available plans so you know what’s changing and how those changes might affect you.
Also, don’t hesitate to set up a one-on-one discussion with an HR representative so you can fully understand your options.
3. Evaluate your current plan
It’s possible you have either too much or not enough coverage on your current plan.
Review how you’ve used your insurance over the last year and how much you’re paying monthly. Are you getting your money’s worth?
For example, if you and your dependents rarely go to the doctor but you have the most expensive plan, you might be able to save money by downgrading. On the flip side, it might be worth upgrading your plan if you or a family member on your plan has a lot of health issues.
4. Consider your future needs
Since the plan you’re choosing during open enrollment is for the coming year, basing your choice on the current year’s needs doesn’t make sense.
For example, if you’re expecting to get pregnant or planning to undergo a postponed surgery, you should consider getting better coverage for those events.
Also, don’t assume your health plan will cover what you need. Check for limitations or exclusions so you know what to expect.
5. Consider other options to save
There are a couple of ways to save money without skimping on coverage. Some employers offer a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), which can help you save money when you know you’ll have a lot of health-related expenses.
Contributions to these accounts are made pre-tax, so the savings are immediate. For example, say you elect to contribute $2,000 to one of these accounts over the course of the year. If your effective tax rate is 20 percent, your tax savings on those contributions will be $400.
Just remember: You typically can use funds from these accounts only for health-related expenses. Also, you can contribute to only one type of account at a time.
Other health benefits to consider during open enrollment
Health insurance isn’t the only benefit you might have to consider during open enrollment.
Depending on your employer’s benefits package, you also might be able to opt in to the following health benefits:
- Dental insurance
- Vision insurance
- Short-term disability insurance
- Long-term disability insurance
- Life insurance
In many cases, you don’t get choices to compare with these other benefits. You either elect coverage or decline it.
Still, some might require due diligence, so make sure you know what your options are. And don’t be afraid to ask an HR representative at your company if you’re not sure about something.
Plan ahead for open enrollment
Proper preparation can give you the confidence to make the right choices about your health and other insurance plans.
Now that you know what to do, put these steps into action as soon as you get information about next year’s employee benefits package. You’ll not only feel less stress and confusion, but you’ll also ensure that you get the best plan available to you.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|