Nuts & Bolts: Open Enrollment #benefitsmatter

Grab a cup of coffee! Let’s talk health insurance…

I like to occasionally talk about the more “Nuts & Bolts” aspects of life…frugal february, budgeting, and the like. So, along with Alfac, a Fortune 500 insurance company, I wanted to share some of my personal tips on how to get the most out of open enrollment season for health care plans. I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed with the options and paperwork. It can be a tricky business to navigate, and Millenials are statistically less likely to be prepared. Here are a few of my tips (with my boyfriend’s help!) on how to save for and make a good decision during health care open enrollment time.

Low- vs. High-Deductible Plans
I know health care can be expensive no matter how you slice it, and it’s tempting to go for the cheapest monthly-cost plan. While this may be good for your budget in the short run, it could leave you high and dry should something come up (and that’s the point of insurance, right, in case something comes up?). I personally prefer to budget more each month, knowing that I’m well-covered and wouldn’t need to scramble to find several thousand dollars out-of-pocket for a higher-deductible plan at an already stressful time. If you do go for a higher-deductible plan, check out an HSA to go with it (see below).

Cross Your T’s and Dot Your I’s
It might seem dull, but it’s important to read the fine print of all the available plans. You’ll want to make sure your hospital of choice and the physician of your choice are “in-network,” meaning you won’t have to pay extra to visit them. Take a look at co-pays, prescription coverage and ER visit coverage. These will vary by plan, so find your priorities and try to balance them with your budget. For instance, if you have a lot of prescriptions, good coverage is important. If you have kids and envision ER visits in your future, good ER coverage is important, too. Of course, no insurance is perfect, but at least you’ll know you’re getting the best for your particular circumstance.

Consider an HSA
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a great way to supplement whatever health care plan you choose, particularly high-deductible plans and for people with families. The savings account (you generally set these up through your bank or your employer) allows you to set aside money for everyday medical expenses, everything from Band-Aids to eyeglasses. You get to keep this money and it can be incredibly useful to have socked away should you need to cover an expense that doesn’t meet your deductible.   If you put $25 a pay period (assuming a bi-weekly pay period) into your HSA, you’d have $2,600 at the end of the year to help meet medical expenses that might come up. Aflac’s post about how most of us are “One Emergency Away from Financial Data” shows the numbers and why an HSA may be a good idea. One emergency could greatly damage your credit and financial future.

Don’t Forget Incentives
Once you’ve chosen your plan, don’t forget to take advantage of incentives. Some plans will give you a discount if you don’t smoke, plan to quit smoking, get a dental or eye exam, commit to regular exercise, etc. It can be easy to forget about these, so don’t let them slip through your fingers! Also don’t forget to take advantage of free physicals or other health screenings your insurance might offer. Preventative care is best!

Now it’s time to go for a walk! Love me some crunchy leaves, the crisp fall air, and feeling of accomplishment for those pesky “grown-up” things like health insurance. Plus a walk is healthy for ya 😉 

Even if you’re young and healthy, I personally think insurance is an important investment. Health can so easily be taken for granted, but if it fails, you won’t want to be stressed about finances. So take your time this open enrollment season to take control of your health and future. And please note this is all based on my own experience and I am not a professional. Be sure to fully investigate your options before making a decision.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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