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6 Questions to Answer about Your Employee Benefits Before Open Enrollment

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Open enrollment is the period every year during which eligible employees may enroll in benefits or make changes to their existing benefits. Employees may have the option to enroll in health, dental, or vision plans, group life insurance, or other benefits. Once elections are made, they cannot be changed until the next open enrollment period, except with certain qualifying events, such as the birth of a child. The federal health insurance marketplace open enrollment period runs from November 1 through January 15.

Work with our knowledgeable agent to create an employee benefits package that will help you attract and retain top talent. Before open enrollment, we recommend that you share with employees the following key questions and answers regarding their group benefits.

Has healthcare been made more affordable?

Employers may lower premium contributions or make changes specifically designed to lower out-of-pocket costs for employees at the point of service. Some employers offer health plans associated with tax-advantaged health savings accounts and seed those accounts to help employees cover increasing healthcare costs. Employees should know about any changes that will lower their expenses in the coming year.

Are preferred doctors and providers still covered?

Employers may change insurance companies, health plans, or provider networks to reduce costs. When this happens, employees’ preferred doctors and providers may no longer be in the network. Employees should find out if new plan options accept current doctors and hospitals, and if not, consider changing providers to lower their out-of-pocket costs.

How much health coverage is provided for working spouses and children?

A certain percentage of U.S. employers have added surcharges for coverage when it is available through a working spouse’s employer to reduce the amount they contribute. The average amount of these surcharges is $100 per month in addition to regular premiums. A few employers have also made changes in premium contributions for children.

Has prescription drug coverage changed?

Managing prescription drug expenses is a top concern, particularly with specialty drugs. Employees should find out if there are new approved drug lists, exclusions, or approval process provisions. They will need to know if their medications are still covered, whether they must be pre-approved, and how much they will cost.

Are there new or expanded options that may benefit employees?

How, when, and where employees receive medical services can make a difference in out-of-pocket costs. Many employers today offer telemedicine consultations with healthcare providers when appropriate. These consultations can be less costly than in-person visits to doctors’ offices, urgent care centers, or emergency rooms. Some employers contract with centers of excellence for back, knee, cardiac, fertility, and other health issues and offer employees incentives for using these centers.

What new voluntary benefits are available?

Relatively low-cost voluntary benefits, such as dental, vision, life, and disability insurance, are becoming more popular with both employers and employees. Other possible options include identity theft protection, pet insurance, and student loan refinancing. For open enrollment, employees should know about any new voluntary benefits an employer is offering.

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