It’s that time of year for many companies across the nation: open enrollment. As an employee, this is your only opportunity to select benefits for the next year (unless you have a qualifying life event), which means it’s not something to take lightly. You’ll be making crucial decisions about your family’s health and financial well-being. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic gives open enrollment even more importance in 2020. Not only has it highlighted the importance of employee benefits, but it’s also had impacts that may have changed your family’s situation. Clearly, there’s a lot to consider; to make the process easier, here are a few tips to guide you through 2020 open enrollment.
Take an active role
A survey by Colonial Life1 showed that one-third of U.S. employees take less than 30 minutes to mull over their employee benefits during open enrollment. Your best choice may be rolling over this year’s benefits to 2021 — but don’t make that assumption without taking time to research your options. Coverage levels, costs, family needs, and offered benefits can change from year to year. Carefully consider each factor to make selections that suit your circumstances and take full advantage of your employer’s benefits.
What worked for you in 2020 may not in 2021, especially if the pandemic has impacted your family’s health or finances. Learning as much as possible about your options can help you make the best decision. If you’re not sure where to start, you’re not alone. A 2018 Aflac survey2 showed that 30% of employees felt they needed more information about their benefits. Fortunately, your HR manager can provide resources to assist you, whether it’s a benefits guide that breaks down your options or a one-on-one meeting to discuss your specific situation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Think about your family’s needs
Health can change over time. This rings especially true during the pandemic. Do you or a family member have new medical, dental, or vision needs? For example, a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation3 found that 53% of adults felt the pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health. Maybe you’re seeking better coverage for mental health services such as counseling. Or you may need to get a cavity filled because you weren’t able to visit the dentist in 2020 due to COVID. Perhaps you want to choose a plan that will better cover potential medical emergencies, whether due to the coronavirus or another health issue.
Beyond the pandemic, certain life changes can also warrant careful consideration during open enrollment. For example, if you’re expecting a baby, getting married, or adding your spouse to a plan, you may need to adjust your coverage. Whatever your situation, now is the time to determine what will best meet your family’s current and future needs and provide valuable peace of mind.
Evaluate your 2020 spending
Look back on your 2020 spending on health, dental, and vision care. Evaluating what you’ve spent and which benefits you used can provide a baseline for your needs in the upcoming year. Factor in premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copays, making sure to note any changes in 2021. A plan with a high deductible can mean lower monthly premiums, but this means you’ll likely have higher out-of-pocket costs when you have a medical need*. A plan like this may suit a young, single person who is generally healthy. A low-deductible plan often means higher premiums but lower out-of-pocket costs, which may be a better fit for a growing family with varying health needs.
Additionally, take a look at the provider network for each plan to ensure your preferred doctor, dentist, or other medical professional accepts your insurance. For a PPO (preferred provider organization) plan, visiting an in-network provider is often more cost-effective.
Don’t forget about ancillary benefits
Healthcare is understandably top of mind for many people during open enrollment. But dental, vision, and life benefits are also vital for you and your family. With life insurance, your family will have a financial safeguard against lost income due to death or dismemberment. Dental and vision coverage can help you affordably keep your mouth and eyes healthy — which can also lead to better overall health. For instance, researchers have found a connection between gum and heart disease. Diabetes has also been associated with poor dental health4. Meanwhile, your eye health may be connected to your hearing, heart health, and blood pressure5.
Dental and vision benefits are arguably as valuable as ever. Many people have been forced to delay or cancel eye exams and dental cleanings this year due to COVID-19 — which is why at-home dental care, in particular, has gained heightened importance. Without routine appointments with an optometrist or dentist, issues such as cavities and vision changes may go undetected and untreated. This, along with the advantages to your overall health, can make dental and vision benefits worthwhile in 2021.