Don’t get stuck by the com­plex­i­ties of open-en­roll­ment sea­son — just do it

The Washington Post - - ECONOMY & BUSINESS -

I hate ope­nen­roll­ment sea­son.

I know I’m not sup­posed to say this, but it’s true. The long list of ben­e­fit op­tions can be flat-out over­whelm­ing. Which health­care choice is right? Do I just go with the cheap­est op­tion? What’s the right amount of life in­sur­ance? Make a wrong move, and you’re stuck with your de­ci­sion for a year, un­less you have a lifechang­ing event such as the birth of a child.

Not sur­pris­ingly, many work­ers find open en­roll­ment frus­trat­ing, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by Namely, an HR soft­ware com­pany.

So what both­ers peo­ple the most?

They don’t like the con­stant changes in plans from year to year, the overly com­pli­cated ma­te­rial they’re given to make their choices or the lim­ited time they have to make their de­ci­sions. Half of em­ploy­ees said they would like at least a month to make se­lec­tions.

Peo­ple also say they don’t feel their com­pany’s hu­man re­sources depart­ment can help nav­i­gate the process. So they turn to co-work­ers or fam­ily mem­bers for ad­vice.

To be fair, many com­pa­nies do make a con­certed ef­fort to re­duce con­fu­sion. Last year, the In­ter­na­tional Foun­da­tion of Em­ployee Ben­e­fit Plans looked at how com­pa­nies com­mu­ni­cate about open en­roll­ment. Many firms said they beefed up their bud­gets to ed­u­cate em­ploy­ees about their ben­e­fits. They mail ma­te­rial, send emails or cre­ate ded­i­cated web­sites.

De­spite these ef­forts, 80 per­cent of or­ga­ni­za­tions said that most em­ploy­ees don’t even read the in­for­ma­tion they send.

A re­port by Aflac found that 83 per­cent of work­ers spend less than an hour re­search­ing their work­place ben­e­fits. Peo­ple hate the process so much that they said they would rather file their taxes or hold a scream­ing baby.

The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of plan par­tic­i­pants just stick with what they had in pre­vi­ous years.

“The big­gest mis­take peo­ple make in open en­roll­ment is to choose the cheap­est plan with­out mak­ing cer­tain it is the right fit for them,” said Carolyn McClana­han, a physi­cian turned cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner. “For ex­am­ple, some plans in­clude the re­quire­ment that the de­ductible must be met be­fore pre­scrip­tion drug costs are paid, so if you have a $6,000 de­ductible, no drugs will be paid un­til you hit that num­ber. Peo­ple who are on ex­pen­sive med­i­ca­tions will want to make sure they choose a plan that will cover drug costs early.”

McClana­han says the most im­por­tant thing when pick­ing a health-care plan is to make sure your pre­ferred doc­tors and hos­pi­tals are in the net­work. Also, be sure you un­der­stand your phar­macy cov­er­age and med­i­cal de­ductibles. “If you are a low health-care user, it might be okay to buy a cheaper plan with high de­ductibles, but re­mem­ber that you must have money set aside to meet the de­ductible if you be­come ill,” she said.

Se­niors who have to make their Medi­care choices by Dec. 7 aren’t any more en­thu­si­as­tic about re­search­ing their op­tions. In a sur­vey ti­tled “The Cost of Com­pla­cency,” Wel­lCare Health Plans found that se­niors are more likely to com­par­i­son shop for gro­ceries, gas, ca­ble or va­ca­tions than to take the time to fig­ure out which Medi­care plan is right for them.

“The emer­gence of a new epi­demic among se­niors — an epi­demic of ap­a­thy when it comes to Medi­care cov­er­age — could have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the fi­nan­cial health of se­niors,” said Michael R. Polen, a Wel­lCare ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent.

Look­ing at Medi­care op­tions is so loathed that some sur­vey par­tic­i­pants said they would rather get a colonoscopy.

If you’re a se­nior who is over­whelmed by the choices, go to medi­ and search for “Medi­care Plan Finder.” Us­ing your Zip code, you can get per­son­al­ized help in com­par­ing plans. You’ll need to set aside some time for this, be­cause there are a lot of ques­tions. If you’re not good at do­ing things on­line, that’s fine. Call 1-800MEDICARE (1-800- 633-4227).

Se­niors and their fam­ily mem­bers or care­givers also can find free lo­cal help — in-per­son or on the phone — through State Health In­sur­ance As­sis­tance Pro­grams (SHIPs), which are in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands. Go to ship­tacen­ and se­lect your lo­ca­tion. You’ll be taken to a page where you can call a lo­cal SHIP or get a link for the lo­cal pro­gram’s web­site.

McClana­han, who is the founder of the fee-only Life Planning Part­ners based in Jack­sonville, Fla., will join me live at noon East­ern time Nov. 16 at wash­ing­ dis­cus­sions. She’ll be avail­able to an­swer your gen­eral ope­nen­roll­ment ques­tions.

I don’t like do­ing my taxes ei­ther, and I cer­tainly didn’t think get­ting a colonoscopy was fun. But you’ve got to push through these things. Ope­nen­roll­ment choices are too im­por­tant to let ap­a­thy and/or con­fu­sion pre­vent you from read­ing what your com­pany sends or ask­ing for help. Just do it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.