Your Open Enrollment Checklist: 5 Things to Ensure You Do Before the DeadlineSubmitted by Castlebar Asset Management on November 6th, 2019
Need to make a change to your health insurance plan? Ready to take advantage of accounts like HSAs or FSAs? Is it time to bump up your life insurance coverage, or have you neglected setting up disability insurance up to this point?
Now might be a great time to change all this, as it’s open enrollment season for many companies.
To help you prepare, here are 5 things you should have on your open enrollment checklist to ensure you’re taking full advantage of your company benefits.
1. Confirm Your Open Enrollment Deadlines
Open enrollment periods usually last a few weeks and tend to happen during the fall. But specific dates and timelines will depend on your employer.
The very first thing you need to do is to confirm when your open enrollment period starts and when the deadline is for submitting requests or changes to your benefits. You can ask your HR department about this any time of year, and it might be a good idea to do so sooner rather than later.
Additional items your employer may need to provide to you, along with dates for open enrollment periods, include:
- Information on your current coverage and plans
- Specific changes to plans, and updated prices for what’s offered
- Summaries of available plans and coverage
- Guides that explain more about each of your benefits
Once you understand the dates and received all the paperwork your employer must provide, you can plan accordingly (which includes reaching out to your financial planner for help evaluating or analyzing your options so you can choose the benefits and plans that fit your needs best).
2. Review Your Health Insurance Plan
A good next step is to take a look at your existing health insurance plans. Again, this is something you can (and should) do before open enrollment starts. Knowing what you have now will give you a baseline to compare other options against.
In addition to looking at what you have, consider how you’ve used it over the past year. Was your health insurance coverage sufficient, or do you feel like you had to go without necessary care because it wasn’t covered? Did you hit any maximum out of pocket costs or end up not really using your policy at all?
Looking over what you already have — and how it did or did not meet your needs over the last year — also gives you an opportunity to identify things you have questions about or might need to change when you get a chance to switch plans.
3. Make a List of Features to Consider When Comparing Plans
Once you understand what you have, you might want to look at what you could start using. Here’s a list of potential benefits you might want to look into this open enrollment season:
- HSAs: Does a switch to a high deductible health plan make sense considering you get access to an HSA, or are the financial benefits of health savings accounts outweighed by the cost of the deductible? You also want to consider if you can max out your HSA; if not, an HDHP might not make sense for you to use.
- Flexible spending accounts: Do any of the health plans you can access during open enrollment come with FSAs or dependent care FSAs? If you can use one, what’s your plan for maxing it out next year? Did you use all the money you put into your FSA if you already had one?
- Switching providers: If you want to change doctors or providers, do your research now. Are they in network or out of network with the plans you can choose from?
You might have other considerations to think through before you choose a health plan. The important thing is that you identify what these options are so you can work through which plan meets your needs at the best price once open enrollment starts at your company.
4. Look into Your Life and Disability Insurance Needs
Health insurance isn’t the only thing you can take advantage of when going through your open enrollment checklist.
Both life insurance and disability insurance might be benefits you can take advantage of — and unless you had a qualifying life event in the last year, open enrollment might be your only chance to opt in until next year.
First, you’ll want to consider whether you need life insurance. If you don’t have anyone who depends on all or part of your income to get by, the answer to this could be that you don’t need it.
If you have kids or a spouse with whom you share a financial life (including things like a mortgage or another shared debt), getting some coverage is probably a good idea so your family wouldn’t face financial hardship if something happened to you.
Or, you could have had life insurance in the past — but no longer need the coverage. Perhaps your kids went off to college or got their first full-time jobs; if you only carried a policy to protect them, it might be time to stop paying into the group coverage for life insurance and put that money to work elsewhere instead.
You need to ask similar questions around your disability insurance. Review what you have now and understand how you’re covered, and then ask: does this leave any gaps?
For example, do you have both long-term and short-term disability coverage? What exactly does your policy cover? Would it cover only full disability, or would you receive benefits should you become partially disabled?
Additionally, you’ll want to consider what your base income looks like. This matters for disability coverage:
If your base income is less than half of your total income, review the details of your disability coverage carefully. Some plans are capped at a certain income level, while others use your base when determining your benefit. Only a few look at total income.
Your income is one of your most important, valuable assets during your working years, and the right disability insurance can protect that even if you lose the ability to work. It’s important that you take advantage of your open enrollment period to get the right (and sufficient) coverage in place.
5. Know Your Other Options for Additional Benefits
All employers are different, and everyone’s benefits package looks a little different. It’s possible that your open enrollment checklist needs to account for various other plans and perks you can opt into at your company.
Along with health insurance, you might want to evaluate dental and vision insurance plans if they’re offered through your employer.
Andeven if it’s not open enrollment specific, now might be a good time to evaluate benefits like retirement plans and equity compensation programs if you’re not already taking advantage of them. These could include 401(k)s or employee stock purchase plans (or some other form of equity comp, like grants of stock options or restricted stock units)
If you’re participating in these programs, look at how much you contribute. Should you increase your withholdings and add more to your plans? Or is there a good reason to cut back on how much you’re allocating to these areas?
These are questions a financial planner can help you with as part of a comprehensive financial plan. And don’t hesitate to reach out to your HR department, too! Your company should provide additional help and resources to support your efforts in navigating your benefits and options during open enrollment.
Disclaimer: The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.