This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tips For Open Enrollment

Posted By Paul

If you're like me then November means open-enrollment. It can be a hard to squeeze in enrollment along with the holiday season, but the choices you make now are some of the most important ones that you'll make for the year.

Here are some tips I thought I'd share on navigating the open enrollment process:

1) Go to the informational sessions - companies almost always host some sort of meeting where they give an overview of your choices, be sure to go to this meeting.

2) Come to the session informed - this can be a tough one since it's easy to want to come to the session and get the information you need there, but I've found that it's REALLY helpful if you can at least try to understand your options BEFORE you go to the meeting. That way you can listen in the meetings to see if your understanding of the plans jives with the info the presenter describes. You can even come prepared with questions, which is a great way to clarify the ins and outs of your various choices.

3) Understand your choices - often with healthcare plans it's not as simple as "the plan that costs me the most is the best". Often the "best" plan is a matter of the size and health status of your family. Which brings me to item 4...

4) Have an honest understanding of the health care needs of your family for the year - it's hard to predict what kind of health issues you will face in the upcoming year but you can at least make an effort to identify things that you KNOW will be coming up.

5) Discuss with your family - The decision you make will have an impact on all of them for the year, so bring them into the discussion early. Go over the information with them. Not only does it make them more informed about their health care plan but going through the pamphlets and literature with someone else makes the process slightly less mind-numbing.

7) Discuss with coworkers - For me this is often the most useful thing to do. Your coworkers are making the same sort of choices you are so it's a great way to discuss pros and cons of plans and maybe learn something from a coworker that you missed or misunderstood.

8) Consider the worst case and prepare for it - One thing I like to consider when comparing plans is the "worst case for the year" by that I just mean the annual out of pocket costs for a plan. If a plan says that the most you'll have to pay in the year is say....$10,000 then if you have that amount in your rainy day fund it helps me sleep a little better. If the maximum out of pocket for a plan you are considering is $10,000 and you only have $2000 in the bank then I might want to rethink your plan choice or try to add more to your rainy day fund.

9) Check the networks. There are so many plans that only pay benefits when you go to a health care provider in a particular network. It's easy to just assume that your doctor is in the network, but definitely take the time to check, it usually only requires a quick phone call or web page search.

It seems like health care choices are getting more and more complicated each year, so use every information resource available to you when making your decision.

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