Open Enrollment

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(Benefits) Decision 2012: Top 10 Tips for Open Enrollment

While you may define your job as how you receive a paycheck, most of us have additional “jobs” outside of work. You might serve as the chef, schedule coordinator, and entertainment director for yourself and your family.

During the Open EnrollmentOpen Enrollment
A time, often in the fall, when employees choose their health plans for the following year. You typi... more
period, you might have to take on the added job of “Health Benefits Decision-Maker.” If you are like most Americans, this is probably one of the harder jobs you have. According to a recent study from Aetna, consumers ranked choosing health care benefits as the second most difficult major life decision behind saving for retirement.

You need to be prepared in order to choose the benefitbenefit
The term "benefit" may refer in general to a health plan (your "benefits"), specifically define the ... more
plan that is best for you and anyone covered on the plan. However, you probably don’t have the time to make your health benefits job a full-time role. To help make this process easier, here are the top 10 tips from Wendy Shanahan-Richards, M.D., co-author of Navigating Your Health Benefits for Dummies, a family physician and national medical director for Aetna.

Even if you believe that you understand health insurance, it doesn’t hurt to review the basics again.

1. Make sure you understand the meaning of terms such as “deductibledeductible
A set amount that you must pay for your medical services before the health plan starts to pay.... more
,” “co-insuranceco-insurance
The portion of the cost of covered medical services paid by the patient under a health plan, after f... more
,” “premium,” “in-networkin-network
Also called "provider network." A panel of physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals... more
” and “health savings account.” The Plan for Your Health glossary is a great resource with hundreds of health benefits related definitions.
2. Don’t just think of yourself. If others will be covered under your benefits plan, take this into consideration as you are reviewing your benefits for the upcoming year.

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Take charge of your health and your health care. Be your own best advocate.

3. Make a list of your current and future health care needs (at least those that you are aware of). The list could include prescription medications or any planned surgeries or health care procedures for the upcoming year, among other things.
4. Follow up on your own list and ask your doctor or doctor’s office staff questions about tests, medications, consultations and other health care services you may need over the next year.

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To plan for the future, learn from the past.

5. Determine which benefitbenefit
The term "benefit" may refer in general to a health plan (your "benefits"), specifically define the ... more
plan worked best for you in the past. That plan may still work for you. However, if you have had a major life change – getting married, having a baby, retiring – you will need to rethink your health benefits needs.
6. On the other end, review any problems you had with previous benefits plans. The Open EnrollmentOpen Enrollment
A time, often in the fall, when employees choose their health plans for the following year. You typi... more
period is a good time to try to learn more about coverage you wish you had in the past.

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What you don’t know can hurt you.

7. Carefully review all open enrollmentopen enrollment
A time, often in the fall, when employees choose their health plans for the following year. You typi... more
materials provided by your employer. In particular, try to make note of how the benefits plans will change from this year to next.
8. Know the deadline for making your decision. Make specific note of the timeline for enrollment, and give yourself plenty of time to choose your benefits before the deadline arrives. Start early, or before you know it, it will be the night before the deadline and you will be scrambling.
9. Speak up. Ask questions of your employer if you don’t understand the details of the benefitbenefit
The term "benefit" may refer in general to a health plan (your "benefits"), specifically define the ... more
plans being offered. Many employers have Open EnrollmentOpen Enrollment
A time, often in the fall, when employees choose their health plans for the following year. You typi... more
meetings and other resources to help you better understand your options. These meetings can be an excellent opportunity to get firsthand information on the plans.

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Understand the costs of your benefit plan.

10. While there are probably several factors in your health benefits decision, cost is almost definitely one of the biggest factors. Make sure you understand all of the costs associated with your plan, and not just the plan premium.

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While these are Dr. Shanahan-Richard’s “Top 10” tips, they are certainly not the only things you should consider. The Plan for Your Health Open Enrollment page has a number of resources that can help you make the best decision on your health benefits.

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