The Three Things That Can Save You Money-and Misery-on Your Benefits

Even if you’re planning to stick with the same benefits, you could lose out if you don’t put some work in.

The best way to make sure your doctors are still covered under your health insurance plan?
Pick up the phone and call them.

Each year, many workers learn the hard way that solely relying on your insurance provider’s
online search tool to check on coverage during open enrollment doesn’t work. Those websites aren’t always up-to-date, benefits professionals caution.

Millions of employees are gearing up for their companies’ open enrollment period right now, and many of them will spend less time on it than they do commuting one way to work.

Roughly two-thirds of benefits-eligible employees spend 30 minutes or less reviewing information during this period, according to survey data from financial-services company Voya Financial.

That’s a mistake, especially this year with costs for employer health coverage expected to jump. In addition to rising costs, there are also coverage changes that can vary year to year on
the same plan.

Assess your circumstances
If your life or household is changing in any major way this year, evaluate whether a different healthcare plan or set of benefits could better serve you.

Planning a wedding? Newlyweds or domestic partners who are eligible to be on the same plan can use open enrollment to compare their options. Keep an eye out for monthly fees, and do the math to calculate how much you would owe in copays and deductibles on one plan versus two.

Having a baby? Some health plans have added maternity support. If you’re anticipating more doctor’s visits during pregnancy, it might make sense to switch to a plan with a wider network and lower deductible.

Turning 65? It might make sense to waive your employer’s coverage and go with Medicare, says Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at employee benefits company Optavise. Anticipating a surgery? A higher-premium plan may allow you to pay less in coinsurance, says McSellers, the financial coach.

McSellers also recommends looking at your medical claims from last year to determine whether you can cut back to a lower-premium plan, or you might benefit from wider coverage. Checking whether you met your deductible or out-of-pocket maximum can help you decide, she says, as can calculating how much in total you spent on copays.

Make use of HR benefits managers and interactive tools on your company’s benefits website, such as chatbots and cost calculators.

Make the most of supplementary benefits
Employees are confronting a dizzying list of voluntary benefits, which employees can purchase at a discount through payroll deductions during open enrollment. These may include basics like dental and vision care to more modern additions such as identity theft protection, legal assistance and pet insurance.