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Get the Most Out of Your Benefits Enrollment

(Family Features) A lackadaisical approach to benefits enrollment could leave you short on coverage or end up costing you more than it should. Gathering information and making time to thoroughly consider your options and needs can help ensure you’re getting the best value from your employer’s benefits package.

Approach this year’s open enrollment with these tips from the experts at Colonial Life in mind:

Take life changes into account. A major event like a birth or marriage makes you eligible to adjust your benefits between enrollment periods, but there are many other factors that may affect your coverage needs. For example, you may not bother with dental coverage for a newborn, but once that child has some teeth and is mobile, it’s a good idea to add coverage in the event a fall damages a tooth.

Be conscious of changes. It’s quite common to allow your benefits to renew automatically when the enrollment period rolls around. This can create problems as plans and coverages often change from year to year. Deductible amounts, office visit co-pays and even categories of coverage can shift from one year to the next. Even if there aren’t changes to the coverage, there may be a new pricing structure or additions to coverage that could benefit you.

Dedicate some time. When signing up for benefits for the first time, most people spend at least a little time reviewing each plan option. If you have your premiums deducted from your paycheck automatically, you probably don’t give a lot of thought to your benefits, especially if you’re relatively healthy. Open enrollment is the time to give them more than a passing thought.

A survey by Colonial Life showed 69% of employees spend less than 60 minutes learning about their benefits choices, but that limited time commitment can ultimately affect overall job satisfaction.

“This can be a huge problem for both employees and their employers, because a lack of engagement with the benefits program leads to lower morale and higher turnover,” said Steven Johnson, vice president of enrollment solutions at Colonial Life.

Instead of a cursory flip through the materials, dedicate some time to thoroughly review all the information and make notes about areas you have questions.

Discuss your options. Benefits can be complicated, and there are a lot of terms and jargon in the insurance world that can make it hard to understand exactly what your benefits will cover. That’s why it’s a good idea to sit down with a knowledgeable benefits counselor to discuss your family and personal financial situation.

Technology may be king for many aspects of life, but the survey found just 11% of employees name the internet as the place they turn to learn about benefits during enrollment each year. However, 76% of employees turn to humans including HR professionals, coworkers, family and friends.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for benefits, but a one-on-one counseling session can help simplify the entire benefits process. A private consultation may help you understand how each benefit election impacts your paycheck, as well as simplifying complex benefit concepts, answering your questions and walking you through the enrollment process.

Learn more about how to maximize your benefits at ColonialLife.com.

Benefits Glossary

To gain a better understanding of your benefits, these definitions from HealthCare.gov can help you identify and recognize some common terms.

Benefits: The health care items or services covered under a health insurance plan. 

Coinsurance: The percentage of costs of a covered health care service you pay (20%, for example) after you’ve paid your deductible.

Copayment: A fixed amount ($20, for example) you pay for a covered health care service after you’ve paid your deductible.

Deductible: The amount you pay for covered health care services before your insurance plan starts to pay. 

Flexible Spending Account: An arrangement through your employer that lets you pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses with tax-free dollars. 

Health Savings Account: A type of savings account that lets you set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. 

Network: The facilities, providers and suppliers your health insurer or plan has contracted with to provide health care services.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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