Embracing a Healthy Family: Five Tips for Making Benefits Planning Simpler

Five Tips for Making Benefits Planning Simpler

Open enrollment is probably going to be trickier this coming year with all the new changes and the unexpected changes yet to occur.  I remember open enrollment being a tricky time once my former employer started making changes in response to the high costs of health insurance.  It was a very confusing time of the year and I usually kept my previous elections or relied on a colleague who seemed to understand all of it far better than myself.  It's a tough road since it impacts your entire year of benefits and one mistake could be very costly.  

There are many ways to make it easier and to make each decision really count.  The process to get there to fully understand your choices may not be easy but it's well worth taking the time to realize what is before you.  

  1. Read all the material that has been provided to you.  It may be confusing but if it is, your benefits coordinator usually will be happy to help you with any questions.  I also find looking at other resources is beneficial such as the Aetna Be Smart About Your Health website here.  Doing your homework in light of the changes with the new healthcare regulations will ensure you make an educated decision.
  2. I always used the available plan comparison tools.  Reviewing individual plans can be confusing and comprehensive but when you can see a side by side comparison, it helps make the decision process simpler.  If your plan doesn't have one, create an Excel spreadsheet noting each of the prime benefits you require or would like to have.
  3. Flexible spending accounts are also beneficial for those with childcare costs or numerous medical expenses.  Refer to that checklist to ensure you are making the most of your benefits but choosing the flexible accounts.  Choosing ahead and understanding your needs will simplify the planning process.  If you don't use daycare but do have medical expenses, keep a record of the prior year's expenses to see if pays off to use the spending account.  Leaving money in the account at the end of the year may not be a good idea in some situations so check all the requirements before choosing that benefit.
  4. This ties into idea three above as tracking all receipts and expenditures in a reliable manner will provide a good picture of your expenses.  By using something such as a Personal Health Record, it could even save money by eliminating redundant tests or procedures you may have already had.  A PHR may be a benefit offered by your plan which can help choose the best coverage during open enrollment.
  5. If you are new to a company's open enrollment, ask your colleagues what they use and collect a general consensus of opinions.  If you have pre-existing conditions that warrant specific needs, also ask your colleagues.  Getting as much information as possible will save time and hopefully eliminate confusion.
Probably the biggest area that one can simplify the open enrollment planning period is to educate on the new laws and how they are affecting existing plans and possible new plans.  Inquire what others you work with are selecting and why they choose one over another.  Tracking medical expenses is an optimal way to fully understand what your needs are.  Education, comparing, personal health records, inquiring and tracking are all great ways to simplify the benefits planning period.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Aetna blogging program, making me eligible to get a $30 Target gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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