1. Be prepared, and don't wait until the last minute.
Too many employees aren't prepared for benefits enrollment and often wait until the last minute (often the last day of enrollment) to make important decisions. By taking the time to consider enrollment choices and your needs, you will be better able to get the most out of your benefit plans. And, whether or not your employer requires you to actively enroll, it's still a good idea to review your choices from last year.
2. Take advantage of the tools available.
Enrollment does not have to be time consuming, especially with the new tools employers are making available. Over the past few years, many organizations have expanded the array of tools available, including online enrollment, automated telephone enrollment lines, and benefit call centers. Online enrollment via the Internet, in particular, offers more convenience, greater flexibility, personalization, and the ability to compare and contrast plan choices. Plus, many online enrollment sites offer robust decision support tools with information on plans, providers, quality, and costs.
3. Evaluate your health plan choices.
As employers face another year of double digit health care cost increases, many are making plan design changes and shifting costs. Use the tools and information currently available to evaluate if your current health plan fits your health care and financial needs. Be sure to also consider the following questions:
- Are you satisfied with your current medical and prescription drug plan?
- Are you satisfied with your primary care physician (PCP)?
- Is your PCP still in your health plan's network?
- Are your dental and vision plans appropriate for your needs?
- Do you have any coverage through other sources (your spouse or
partner's employer, for instance)? Is that coverage a better buy for you this year?
4. Reap the tax advantages of health care and dependent care spending accounts.
Consider enrolling in a health care or dependent care spending account. By electing to contribute a portion of your before-tax income during annual enrollment, you'll pay predictable health care and dependent day care expenses tax free throughout the year. Examples of expenses that can be reimbursed through health care spending accounts include deductibles, co-pays, prescription drugs, contact lenses, and day care expenses for dependents. See attached tip sheet for additional information on health care and dependent care spending accounts.
5. Assess your life insurance and disability coverage needs, even if you're young.
Most employers automatically provide life insurance benefits for their employees. However, the enrollment period is a good time to assess whether your circumstances call for additional life insurance, either through your employer's plan or another carrier. Consider the following: What is my family situation? Would my personal savings provide adequate protection for my family if something happened to me? What other sources of life insurance are available? Are my beneficiary designations updated and accurate? And, since most people are most likely to be disabled at a young age than die, disability coverage is worth considering, regardless of your age.
6. Maximize your participation in your 401(k) plan.
The earlier you start contributing to your 401(k), the better you'll be. If you haven't already started contributing to your 401(k), start now! Remember, your employer may "match" your savings with additional dollars, so make the most of the plan. Also, make sure that your investment portfolio in the 401(k) plan is appropriate for your risk tolerance and age, and in line with your retirement goals. Remember that as you think about saving, think long-term. Your 401(k) savings are not about what's happening in the market today but, rather, what happens in the market over the long haul.
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itt Associates, an outsourcing and consulting firm that will handle benefits enrollment for almost 4.5 million employees and retirees this year, offers the following tips that can be passed on to your enrollees: