Five Tips To Help People Get The Most From Their Employee Benefits

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Employee Benefits

Halloween aside, October can be a frightening time of year for many people. For many companies, between now and January is open enrollment season, when most employers offer their employees the daunting task of reviewing and updating their benefits package. To help simplify the process, the nonprofit Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) today announces five tips to help people weigh their options and ensure they are getting the most out of their employee benefits.

"Open enrollment is the perfect opportunity to make sure you are taking advantage of all the benefits offered by your employer. Use this time of year to update your plans to accommodate any new needs you have," said Matt Tassey, CLU, LUTCF, past chairman of the LIFE Foundation. "Amid rising benefit costs, you should carefully evaluate all your options and not overlook benefits that could be an important part of your financial security plan."

LIFE offers the following five tips to simplify open enrollment and help people make sure they are getting the most out of their employee benefits.

1. Don't assume that doing nothing will maintain your status quo -- When faced with a myriad of open enrollment choices, the easiest decision is to put off the task of evaluating your options altogether. Not taking the initiative to enroll in a benefit program could mean missing out on new options offered by your employer or could leave you in a program that no longer meets your particular needs.

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2. Re-evaluate your insurance coverage -- If you've had a child or gotten married or divorced this year, make sure your insurance policies and beneficiary designations are up to date. When the number of people who depend on you changes, so should your health, life and disability insurance coverage. While you typically have 30 days to change your benefits after a life-changing event occurs, open enrollment is a good time to make sure that all of your major insurance coverage's are properly structured.

3. Look for cost-effective ways to increase your life and/or disability insurance

In addition to health insurance benefits, many companies offer their employees group life and disability insurance. Sometimes employers will provide a basic life or disability insurance benefit at no cost to their employees, and there will be an option to supplement that coverage through voluntary payroll deduction. It is important to carefully review all that is offered and maximize the opportunities where you can to save money. In some cases it might make sense to buy or increase life or disability insurance coverage through your employer's group insurance plans, whereas other times it may be more sensible to purchase coverage on your own by contacting a local insurance professional. The best place to start is by speaking with your human resources administrator to learn what your employer offers and whether you have the option to increase your coverage through work.

4. Calculate your out-of-pocket healthcare expenses

According to Hewitt Associates, healthcare costs are expected to increase by 8.7% in 2008. Thus, an important component to consider during open enrollment is a flexible spending account (FSA) or healthcare spending account (HSA). An FSA allows you to set aside a portion of your pre-tax earnings to pay for qualified expenses, such as doctor co-pays, prescriptions, daycare or even mass transportation and parking. If you haven't already enrolled in this benefit, you should strongly consider it. If you currently contribute to your FSA, you may want to increase or decrease your contribution depending on your needs.

5. Ask for help

Talk to your human resources representative or your company's employee benefits advisor about your benefit options during open enrollment. In addition, review your options with your spouse -- some benefit packages are better than others, so you may want to consider being added to your spouse's plan as a dependent or vice versa.

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