Open enrollment—also called annual enrollment—is your once-a-year opportunity to choose health and insurance benefits for you and your family. Right now is the time that your HR department is beginning to talk about it, and you may have even received something in the mail on the topic.
If you haven’t given it much thought and your enrollment material is buried somewhere with last week’s coupons, let’s dive into it now.
It Happens Only Once Per Year
The enrollment window—often no more than two weeks long—usually happens in the fall so that your new choices become effective on January 1. Don’t let enrollment slip by. Your employer will have a variety of plans to choose from, so it’s up to you to make sure you select the plan that best fits your personal situation and your budget.
During enrollment, you can:
* Choose medical, dental, and vision coverage for yourself and your family.
* Purchase optional life, accident, and disability insurance.
* Decide what to contribute to flexible spending accounts—health care and dependent care.
* Verify and update your dependents.
It’s important to remember that you cannot change your elections outside of open enrollment unless you have a major change in your life, such as marriage or the birth of a child.
How To Prepare
The choices you make will remain effective throughout the year, so it’s important to choose your benefits carefully. Use these tips to help you prepare:
* Understand what’s changing in your company’s health and insurance plans—there’s a lot changing this year due to health care reform…and chances are your costs are going up (as usual). Make sure you’re getting the best deal by investigating your options.
* Think about your medical needs—now and in the future.
* Review your materials, use all available tools to investigate your options, compare plans and decide what’s right for you. Many companies and health plans provide detailed tools. It is worth taking the time to check them out and really understand what your options mean to you.
What To Do During Enrollment
Once you’re prepared, you’ll have to take action. This means:
* Knowing the day enrollment begins and ends.
* Logging on to your company’s enrollment website and making your choices. Or, if you don’t have web access, make your elections over the phone.
* Confirming your choices, reviewing your confirmation statement.
If you miss open enrollment, you will likely continue to receive your current year’s medical, dental, vision and life insurance coverage for yourself and your covered dependents. You will not, however, participate in any flexible spending accounts because you must enroll each year.
After you’ve chosen your selections and before you forget about benefits for a while, remember to do these three things:
* Review your confirmation statement.
* Watch for ID cards.
* Choose your primary care physician (PCP) if you need to.
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