Monday, October 6, 2014

Open Enrollment is Around the Corner...Are You Ready to Make the Right Coverage Choices for Your Family? #TimeWellSpent #sponsored #CleverGirls

"The 2014 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey found that 41 percent of employees spent 15 minutes or less researching their benefit options during the 2013 open enrollment season; and nearly a quarter (24 percent) spent five minutes or less."

With fall comes Open Enrollment for most people.  But, what does that really mean.  If you are single or without children, you probably have an easier time than most when deciding on the health insurance coverage you need.  When you start adding a significant other and children or dependents, then making the right coverage choices may be a daunting task, and one you don't look forward to.  

I learned the hard way about making sure I have the right health insurance back when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.  My husband was carrying the insurance for us, and went with the cheapest plan, as we thought that we were young and healthy and didn't need to spend a lot of health insurance as we rarely went to the doctors.  Big mistake, and one that I am still paying for to this day.  

Before my cancer diagnosis, my husband and I were like so many others when it came to open enrollment -- we didn't do the research or took time to compare the different plans available.  Like I said, we thought we were healthy and could get by with the cheapest plan, which ended up having the highest deductible and didn't cover that much, including scans (which can cost a fortune and are needed when diagnosing and following up with a cancer diagnosis).

According to the 2014 Aflac Open Enrollment survey, "Employees pay an average of $4,565 a year in premiums[2] for an employer-sponsored health plan, which helps protect their health and financial well-being, yet the 15 minutes devoted to benefits selections pales in comparison to time spent researching popular consumer purchases."

The survey found that when it came to making important consumer purchases, people would spend more time on research as it related to vacation planning, purchasing a new car, computer or television.

As I read this, I couldn't think to myself this sounds about right, as we are currently looking to purchase a new television for the holidays, and I had to buy a new computer later.  But, when it came time to purchasing health insurance years ago, before the girls and my cancer diagnosis, we spent more time making sure our contact information and social security and date of birth information was correct, and a minute or two scrolling through the pricing and checking off the least expensive.  Like the survey results show, we would spent about 15 minutes tops on our open enrollment decisions, which were locked in for the following year.  Big mistake.

It wasn't until I was faced with a life changing diagnosis that I realized health insurance and the coverage we had was crucial not only when it came to out of pocket costs we would incur, but also the type of treatment and care we could seek out.  I found myself taking out loans and charging blood work and other medical tests, in addition to asking family for financial support when the bills starting rolling in, to help keep my husband and I from losing our house.  And, because we had locked in our benefits for a year (my diagnosis came in Feb. 2008 and treatment began March 1st), we had to go the entire year and length of treatment with the cheapest plan we had chosen, that was supposed to save us money -- but, really didn't.

We have since learned from our mistakes, and now that we have children, we make a point to take our time when it comes to choosing the right health coverage for our family.  While we may be in better health now and don't think we need full coverage, you never know what tomorrow may bring.  I never thought I would get cancer in my late 20's, nor did I know my girls would be born with pyloric stenosis and need surgery shortly after birth.  But, after taking time to research and compare benefit plans, we are more confident that when a medical emergency or illness may arise, that we have the proper coverage needed to seek the best care possible, without having to worry about how much it will cost out of pocket, or if we have to go without different services or treatment options as our insurance doesn't cover it.

I am not going to jeopardize the health of my girls by not doing the necessary research before choosing which health coverage is right for us...and, you shouldn't either!

In addition to choosing health and dental coverage through my husband's employer, we also carry voluntary insurance policies through Aflac and have been doing so since I was diagnosed back in 2008.  

"Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company providing individual and group voluntary insurance products that help deliver protection to more than 50 million people worldwide.For nearly six decades, Aflac insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress."

Aflac's voluntary insurance policies, which are designed to supplement major medical plans, pay policyholders directly for unexpected costs associated with a covered serious illness, injury or loss. In addition, the cash benefits can be used to help pay rent, gas, groceries, child care or any other out-of-pocket expenses a worker may have.  Without our additional Aflac policy I don't know how we would have ever been able to afford my cancer care and post treatment expenses.  And, if you have experienced cancer personally or have a close family member who has, then you know that cancer also brings long-term side effects that will cost you out-of-pocket.  With the help of Aflac's voluntary insurance policy, we have added piece of mind, if ever my cancer comes back, or another serious illness or injury strikes our family.

Don't find yourself struggling to make ends meet, or wondering what you will do if you and your family is faced with a serious illness or injury and you don't have the best coverage possible.  Learn from my mistakes and those of others, when it comes to open enrollment -- and, instead make the right choices for you and family.

Here are just a few common enrollment mistakes that the 2014 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey recently found that I wanted to share with you, as you embark on Open Enrollment for 2015 in the coming weeks...

Common Enrollment Mistakes:

  • Those who don’t set aside time to research their insurance options may make hasty benefits decisions and end up wasting money.
  • The 2014 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey found that the majority (90 percent) of workers are “auto-enrolling” or keeping the same benefits year after year.
  • And, four in 10 (42 percent) workers waste up to $750 each year on mistakes with their insurance benefits.
  • Also, the 2014 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey revealed many workers don’t take the time to understand their benefits choices:
  • Most workers (73 percent) only sometimes, rarely or never understand everything that is covered by their policy.
  • More than six out of 10 workers (64 percent) sometimes, rarely or never understand changes in their coverage when making annual enrollment decisions. 
  • 64 percent disagree or only somewhat agree that they are more prepared for open enrollment this year compared to last year.

So, as you gear up for your family's open enrollment at your workplace or your significant other/spouse's, why not make a point to spend more than 15 minutes going through the forms and zeroing in on the cheapest plans.  Instead, really look at the benefits packages available, compare them against others and if need be do additional research online, so that when you make your final selections and are locked in for 2015, you are confident that you are making the right selections.  Come on, if you can spend 2+ hours researching television, vacation and other consumer purchases you plan to make, don't you think you should give this same time to what health benefits and coverage you and your family will have going into the new year.  This extra time spent on researching your health benefits will not only protect your family's health and financial well-being, but will provide peace of mind when and if you are faced with a medical emergency, as you know your family will be covered.

Want to make sure you make the right decision this year when it comes to open enrollment, but don't know where to start?  Here are some helpful tips and places and resources to utilize...

Take Advantage of Benefits Education Resources:

  • To minimize confusion during the benefits options selection process:
    • Carefully review and compare all available benefits information. Take time to look up terms you don’t understand such as voluntary insurance, deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses and others
    • Understand the financial implications your choices have on your budget. In addition to monthly premiums, make sure you can afford the yearly deductible costs. If a high deductible looks like it may be a burden, choose a plan with a slightly higher monthly premium and a lower deductible that may be easier to manage.
    • Ask your employer to arrange meetings with health care insurance agents or brokers to answer questions.
    • Attend on-site seminars, participate in webinars and read the relevant education materials.

Don't forget to also check out Aflac and their optional and voluntary insurance policies, which can help with things likes accidents, dental, life, vision, cancer, hospital intensive care and more.  "In the United States, Aflac has been the number one in worksite/voluntary sales for 13 consecutive years. (Eastbridge Consulting Group, U.S. Worksite/Voluntary Sales Report. Carrier Results for 2002-2014. Avon, CT.) Also, Aflace has a presence in "all 50 states, and in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The company is also the number one life insurance company in terms of the number of individual policies in Japan."

To learn more about Aflac, the No. 1 provider of supplemental and guaranteed-renewable
insurance in the United States, please vist 
 the Aflac WorkForces Report website for more information on open enrollment resources here -

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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