Thursday, October 4, 2012

Are You Ready to Make The Right Choice When It Comes to Your Health Benefits This Year During Open Enrollment?


In just a couple of weeks, my husband will be given his annual open enrollment package, and we will spend a weekend going over the options, comparing pricing based upon our growing families needs, as well as keeping in mind pre-existing conditions which need frequent monitoring.  Will your family be prepared to choose the right plan?

For me, I still have to visit the oncologists every three months, as they continually find new masses on my scans.  When this happens, the doctors have to order new scans and testings, which are not covered under some health plan options.  We learned this the hard way back in 2008, when I was diagnosed with cancer.  Because you can only elect your benefits during open enrollment in the Fall, we weren't planning on my diagnosis and all that went along with it -- tests, treatments, medicines, follow up care, etc.  Hopefully you will never be diagnosed with a life threatening disease like cancer, but if you have or know someone who has, then you probably know how expensive the treatment and care is, and more times than not is not covered by health plans.  Back when I was diagnosed, it was just my husband and I.  I would go to the doctor every 6-7 months for my annual appointments, and then maybe 1-2 times a year see the doctor for a sinus infection or cold.  And, my husband, like many men, didn't like going to the doctors.  I would have to drag him tooth and nail when he gets really sick and sit there with him -- just to know he went.  So, based upon our health needs, we chose the cheapest plan, which had the highest deductible.  And, come open enrollment, year after year, we would simply renew our current health plan options, as things hadn't changed.

But, when cancer hit unexpectedly, we realized that our choosing to renew our plan each year, without seriously looking at our needs hurt us.  With such a high deductible, we ended up having to borrow money from my parents, use credit cards and finally take out personal loans just to cover the high out of pocket expenses that our health plan didn't cover.  Medications were costly, along with therapies and daily trips into Boston from CT.  I ended up staying with my parents in MA just to save some money on travel expenses, and have them help with care, as I eventually needed a feeding tube and needed assistance with day to day care.  It wasn't until my treatment was over and I returned home,  that I began receiving the bills.  They just kept coming and coming. With no assistance from the health companies to defer these bills, we had to reach into our savings just to pay some of the more outstanding bills off.  And, for the others, we charged or borrowed money from family to pay.  It took almost two years to pay the bills in full, and we only recently (4 years later) have paid off all debts associated with my cancer treatment.

The one thing that changed after my diagnosis was how we looked at open enrollment.  Instead of just checking the box to renew our health care plan, we sat down and really did our homework.  Do you do your homework when it comes to deciding on which health plant to choose?  If not, you are not along.  I recently watched a video recently from Health Talk, in which Dr. Marc Siegal shared information from a recent health report conducted by Aflac (2012 Open Enrollment Survey of the Aflac WorkForces Report).  He said the report showed that "More than half the employees in the US don't know which health plans are best for them, a mistake which costs them up to $750 a year in wasted benefits, the equivalent of 4 months worth of groceries."  And, with open enrollment fast approaching, you and your family should begin to familiarize yourselves with the health plan offerings from you or your spouse's employer.
Click here to see more study findings --

Many employees who were recently surveyed, stated that their employer didn't communicate with the employees about the benefits. In addition, "89% of people decide to stay with plans they had the year before. Nearly half of workers (47%) say that they rarely or never exceed their deductible costs."  But, they forget to look at changes in their life (new family member, new health issues, etc.), and may be setting yourself up for a financial situation for those new life situations.

More information is needed to make better decisions when it comes to choosing the best benefits and health care needs come open enrollment.  If you don't research and plan accordingly, this can cause you to choose a plan that may not cover health issues, leaving you with out of pocket costs.  So, do your homework, look at your family at a whole and make your decisions based on these factors. Don't go into open enrollment unprepared. If you are unsure of the plans and options available through your employer, make a visit to the HR dept.  They will be able to provide more information, handouts, and even answer some of your specific questions, so come open enrollment, you will be prepared to make the best choices for your family's needs.  And, if they can't answer your questions, they will direct you to a person who can.  The last thing you want to have to worry about in this trying economy is how to pay for necessary medical expenses when they unexpected hit.  We weren't ready back in 2008, but are today.  And, with the addition of our two daughters, we have added a flexible spending account and supplemental coverage to our family's benefit plan.  We will be sleeping a little easier and stressing out a lot less, now that we do our homework and make conscious decisions based upon our families needs.  You should do the same!

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Aflac and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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