You’ve got questions about how to compare insurance plans and benefits packages. We’ve got answers.
Fall is here — which means it’s time to get out the sweaters, carve up some pumpkins and prepare for another Open Enrollment season.
Your Open Enrollment process may differ, depending on whether you are a traditional employee, a freelancer, a gig worker or a small business owner. That’s why we’re here to help you make the best choices as you navigate Open Enrollment.
If you’re planning on enrolling in an Affordable Care Act health insurance plan this year, we’ve got a separate guide to help you get the most out of the ACA — so start there!
If you’re planning on enrolling in a healthcare plan offered by your employer, keep reading as we answer frequently asked questions that can help you maximize your employer benefits and choose the best health, vision and dental insurance plans for you and your family. Our Open Enrollment FAQ can also help you compare health insurance plans, learn more about HSAs and FSAs and evaluate life insurance options.
In this article:
What’s different about Open Enrollment in 2022?
This year, you may need to think about how inflation will affect your healthcare budget. Everything is more expensive right now, and that includes the cost of health insurance — and although some employers may absorb this additional expense, others may pass it along to their employees.
Even if you don’t experience a healthcare cost increase yourself, you may still find it more difficult to pay for healthcare benefits simply because everything else — groceries, gas, consumer goods — is more expensive than it used to be. Keep that in mind as you compare packages and benefits, and ask yourself how you’re going to fit healthcare into your budget.
If you were thinking about automatically renewing last year’s benefits plan, make sure it’s still affordable — and be ready to ask questions about any aspect of your employer’s benefits package that may have changed.
“Consider one-on-one meetings with HR teams to review materials and provide customized, relevant advice,” says Kevin Robertson, Chief Revenue Officer at HSA Bank. Remember, your employer’s Human Resources team wants to help you understand your various benefit options — so make sure you ask all of the questions you need before you make your final decisions.
How early can you begin making Open Enrollment decisions?
In general, the best time to evaluate your Open Enrollment options is as soon as you receive them. From medical coverage to life insurance, review everything that would be included before you enroll.
If you’re the kind of person who puts off your decision until the end of Open Enrollment periods, set aside some time to go over your employer’s insurance and benefits packages as soon as they become available. “Start the process earlier than in the past,” advises Robertson. “This will give more time to digest information, review plans and options, and ask questions.”
In some cases, HR departments may hold an in-person seminar to help you understand your Open Enrollment options. In other cases, you may participate in a Zoom webinar or receive a virtual presentation — and may have the opportunity to review Open Enrollment materials on your own time instead of in a group meeting.
While that gives you plenty of time to study your options and ask questions, it also encourages procrastination — especially if you don’t feel like you have the tools you need to make an informed, confident decision.
This is why starting the Open Enrollment process early can be a huge benefit. Review your materials as soon as you get them, write down all of the questions that come up as you compare plans and ask your HR team for any clarification you need to help you make the best decisions for you and your family.
How can you involve your partner or spouse in the decision?
On the subject of making decisions that benefit your family: Make sure you include all key family members in the Open Enrollment process. This means that if you have a spouse or partner, let them know which plans and options are available — and let them weigh in on which options they think are best. This is especially important if you have two working partners in the household, and are choosing between two employers’ healthcare plans.
“Include all family decision-makers,” Robertson explains. “With healthcare becoming a more important topic among families, workers may want to invite family decision-makers to participate in benefits fairs, meetings, or Open Enrollment webcasts.”
Many companies have started doing Open Enrollment virtually, giving you plenty of opportunity to share your employer’s various packages with your spouse or partner. If it’s appropriate for another family member to join the Open Enrollment Zoom meeting, for example, give them the chance to participate.
If your employer pre-records an Open Enrollment presentation or puts Open Enrollment resources online, give your spouse or partner the opportunity to review the materials. They may catch something you missed, or come up with a question that you hadn’t thought of.
What’s the best way to compare health insurance plans?
Health insurance can be confusing enough on its own — and trying to compare two or more health insurance plans can be even more difficult. With each option offering a different set of copays, coinsurance, deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, in-network doctors and prescription coverage, how can you determine which health insurance package is best for you and your family?
Understanding how to compare health plans may be difficult, but it is not impossible. In many cases, your employer will offer tools that can help you compare plans and choose between options. “Videos, presentations, calculators and visual content can be easily viewed and a way to see savings and benefits in real time,” explains Robertson — so make sure you use those resources to understand the differences between your various options.
Want even more resources? We’ve got a guide to help you pick the best health insurance plan for your family, including how to calculate how much a health insurance plan might cost you over the course of a year. If you are still unclear about the differences between copays and coinsurance, Healthcare.gov offers an overview of key health insurance terms — and if you want additional help calculating your potential healthcare costs, there are plenty of health plan comparison calculators online.
Are HSAs and FSAs right for you?
In addition to calculating the differences between health insurance packages, you’re also going to want to do the math on whether you and your family could benefit from a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).
Health Savings Accounts give you the ability to put pretax dollars into a savings or investment account. From there, your HSA can be used to cover qualified medical expenses this year or in future years, including when you’re in retirement. In general, Health Savings Accounts can be excellent financial tools — but typically you have to be enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan to qualify for a HSA, so keep that in mind as you’re comparing options.
Flexible Spending Accounts can also be excellent financial tools. Like HSAs, FSAs allow you to contribute pre-tax dollars to an account that can be used for qualified medical expenses. Unlike HSAs, Flexible Spending Accounts are use it or lose it — which means that if you don’t spend the money you’ve saved by a specific period of time, your savings revert to your employer.
Want to know more? We’ve got a guide to all of the benefits that come with a Health Savings Account, including the triple tax break a HSA can offer. And if you want to know how to use your FSA dollars without losing them, read our guide to making the most of your FSA.
Should you consider vision or dental insurance?
Many employers will offer vision or dental insurance packages along with health care insurance plans. Does that mean you should sign up for vision and dental when reviewing your health coverage? It depends.
“I recommend looking carefully at the policy benefits of dental and vision insurance before purchasing,” explains Robertson. “The decision to buy the coverage comes down to a cost-benefit analysis based on the specific circumstances of the consumer and their history with dental and vision needs.”
If someone in your household is likely to need specialized vision or dental services — a child who needs braces, for example — an insurance package could be a good choice. If you only anticipate visiting the dentist or optometrist for an annual cleaning or screening, you might be better off paying out-of-pocket, especially if you can cover the cost with HSA or FSA dollars.
“If it’s merely being looked at for routine services only, most people are likely to find that the vision or dental plan coverage will cost them the same or more than paying for those services out-of-pocket,” says Robertson.
That said, anyone who has children or other eligible dependents should think seriously about adding vision or dental coverage to their benefits package — because you never know whether this is going to be the year when your child needs extra orthodontic or optometric care.
Want to know what other insurance packages you should consider if you have kids, or are thinking about having children? We’ve got a guide to choosing insurance plans for your family. You might want to consider disability coverage, for example — especially if you’re planning on having a child in the next year. If your kids have pets, you might want to take out a pet insurance plan to ensure that you can afford whatever medical procedures your dogs or cats may need.
Should you sign up for a group life insurance plan?
Many employers offer group life insurance plans — but not all group life insurance plans offer enough coverage to provide long-term financial security for your loved ones. Before signing up for an employer-sponsored group life insurance plan, ask yourself whether group life insurance is going to provide the coverage you need or whether you should consider an affordable, individually owned term life insurance policy.
Need help? We’ve got a guide to understanding group life insurance plans — and a guide to help you decide how much life insurance coverage is best for you and your family.
Want even more help? Use our term life quote calculator to find out how much a Haven Life term plan might cost. You might be surprised at how affordable monthly term life insurance premiums can be — and how much life insurance coverage your affordable premiums will get you.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus
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