Open Enrollment at Work: 5 Easy Steps to the Best Benefits for You

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It's tempting to simply hit the "renew" button on company insurance and other benefits. But it's worth the time and money to go through these steps.

Did you get the memo yet?

It’s open enrollment season!

Yes, I know 23 percent of you would rather clean your toilet than research your benefits options (Aflac told me so), but don’t let your love of porcelain get in the way of saving cash. Because that’s what open enrollment is all about: saving you cash.

And I’m not just talking about saving cash on monthly premiums. I mean saving you cash on all of your out-of-pocket expenses throughout the year and saving cash at tax time because you have the right amount deposited into your flexible spending account.

Unfortunately, too many people are mindlessly checking boxes on their open enrollment form and paying the price down the road. “People are not spending enough time selecting the right benefits,” Matthew Owenby, chief human resources officer at Aflac, told me. “People look at monthly expenses without looking at overall costs.”

How can you make sure you’re not acting like one of the fools in the office? It’s easy. Follow these five steps:

Step 1: Attend the benefits open house

Many, although not all, workplaces have some sort of event to kick off open enrollment. They may call it a benefits fair, an open house, a seminar or a workshop. Whatever it’s called, you want to be there.

Depending on your company, your human resources office will be on hand and possibly representatives from the insurance companies offering benefits. This is your opportunity to get real-life answers to your pressing questions. Questions such as: Does Dr. Fabulous participate in your network? What does this high-deductible thing mean? Are you going to gouge me on co-pays?

Of course, you can get answers to these questions later if you miss your company event. This is just an easier way than sitting on hold for 30 minutes for a phone representative to answer your call. Plus, there may be cookies. You do want cookies, right?

Step 2: Ask about wellness incentives

Happy, healthy workers are more productive and less expensive, so your company has a vested interested in keeping you feeling your best. To do so, many offer wellness incentives that may lower your premiums or provide other perks.

Incentive programs can vary, and some are as simple as getting your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked in exchange for a premium rebate. Others may require additional effort, such as entering smoking cessation or weight management programs.

You want to ask your human resources office about wellness incentives upfront for two reasons. First, some businesses offer health screenings on a particular day, and you don’t want to miss your chance to attend. Second, if you qualify for a premium incentive, you want to know that before you select your coverage because it might mean you can afford a more expensive plan with better coverage.

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