Open enrollment season is fast approaching. Before you cringe at the thought of choosing benefits, give thought to the process. Open enrollment is like eating at a buffet restaurant; you get to pick and choose from various items until you’re satisfied.
Like picking unhealthy foods that leave you feeling unfulfilled, taking little time to analyze what you need during open enrollment season can expose you to unintended risk. If you’re contemplating what benefit options to select this year, here’s how taking your time pays off in the long run.
Know Your Benefit Options
Depending on your employer, you likely have many benefit options to select. Colonial Life, for example, offers seven different options with additional variations in many of those options. Many know about health or dental coverage but may not know why they may need accident, critical illness or hospital indemnity insurance. If you don’t know why you may need certain coverage, ask your human resources department for assistance.
Additionally, don’t let the options overwhelm you to the point of inaction or lack of thought. Instead, be thoughtful in your choices. “Take your time. There’s a lot of information to review and factors to consider as you make benefits decisions. If you rush through it, you may miss some important coverage, or end up over-insured,” says MC Guenther, Director, Employee and Corporate Communications.
Employers typically allow several weeks for Open Enrollment season, so make sure to take your time and become informed on your choices.
The Benefit of Picking the Right Benefits
Picking the best fit for your benefit needs doesn’t simply come down to cost. Yes, cost is important, but there are other advantages to selecting the right benefit, such as:
• Staying in good overall health. Health insurance obviously has an impact on this but so does dental insurance, and to a lesser extent vision insurance.
• You have the appropriate coverage in time of need. Disability insurance, for example, is something you never hope to use but is very beneficial when you need it.
• You save money. You may find by comparing two benefit options that one plan offers savings not found in the other, while also providing the same coverage.
Ultimately, taking your time and doing your due diligence will help you be better informed of the options and pick the best benefits package for you and your family.
Know How Your Benefits Work
As mentioned previously, knowing how a chosen benefit works is key to proper coverage. However, many don’t have a full understanding of how their plan works. In fact, the International Foundation of Employee Benefits reports that only 19 percent of organizations believe their employees have a high-level understanding of their benefits. If you don’t have a full understanding of how a benefit works, ask your Human Resources area – they are there to help you.
Let’s take a look at one example in how a lump sum benefit works. You can find lump sum benefits in things like Accident, Critical Illness or Hospital Indemnity coverage options.
The lump sum benefit provides the entire coverage in one payment. Guenther explains how this works, “If you are diagnosed with a covered illness and have a $20,000 critical illness policy, for instance, you’ll receive all $20,000 at once. This lets you decide when and how to spend the money with no strings attached.”
This differs from a fixed sum option found in some benefits that only offer payment to cover the actual expense. There are other differences in benefit options, of course, so it pays to understand the differences to pick the best benefits package for your family.
Overlooked Benefit Options
Most individuals know the importance of taking advantage of health, dental or life insurance benefits. Those only scratch the surface of available benefits. You also have other things to keep in mind like disability, vision or wellness programs – and it doesn’t end there.
“Some benefit vendors may offer some free value-added services to their benefits. These could include an employee assistance program, free financial planning and education tools, or emergency travel assistance,” says Guenther, adding that a wide array of options may be available for little to no cost.
Your needs will vary from others in your organization, but it pays to take advantage of all the benefits made available to you as you never know how they may help you in a time of need. As Guenther adds, “Think of your benefits as pieces of a puzzle. Together, they form a strong safety net against the financial impacts of illness or injury.” Make sure to patiently put your puzzle together to set yourself in the best situation possible.
Open Enrollment season can be overwhelming, but with a bit of work and using the resources made available to you, it’s possible to form a great benefits package for your family.