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Useful questions to ask during voluntary enrollment

Each year, how much time would you say you spend preparing for open enrollment? If you flinched at the thought of your answer, don’t worry, this isn’t meant to be a guilt trip. The vast majority of employees spend less than an hour preparing for enrollment. What’s interesting, is that 61% also admit that they don’t fully understand some aspects of their plan.1 Your voluntary benefits may be one of the areas contributing to that confusion. So, this year, challenge yourself to do your homework and make open enrollment a priority in 2019. To help you keep this resolution, we’re arming you with a list of questions to ask about your voluntary benefits so you can be confident you’re making the best possible decision during enrollment.

1.    Which benefits are covered by my employer?

Starting with this question will help set you up for the remainder of the voluntary enrollment process. Right off the bat, understand which benefits are provided by your employer. For example, some employers provide a base level of life insurance or disability insurance coverage. This will help you understand where you’re starting with your protection and where you need additional coverage with voluntary benefits.

2.    How much coverage do I need? 

This is likely one of the most pressing questions when it comes open enrollment. It may also feel like a question with no definitive answer, especially if you try to go it alone. If your employer has provided counselors to guide you through enrollment be sure to take advantage of their expertise. The amount of risk you’re willing to take and the price you’re willing to pay will certainly play a role, but having a licensed enroller explain your options can help you make an informed decision. If you don’t have access to a counselor, you can consult online calculators, do some budgeting yourself or speak to your HR department for advice.

3.    What are my medical out-of-pocket costs?

Understand the out-of-pocket costs on your medical insurance such as your deductible, copay, and coinsurance. This will help you identify which voluntary benefits you’ll need to supplement your medical insurance and cover those costs.

4.    Will I lose my coverage if I leave my job?

Depending on the policy and insurance company, you may or may not be able to keep your benefits after you leave your job. Some insurance companies offer portable benefits, meaning you can keep your policy even if you do make a career change. Considering the average person makes 12 job changes throughout their career, it is likely that you’ll need to know if your benefits are portable.2
  
5.    Will my premium increase over time or will it remain the same?

Once again, the answer to this question depends on the policy. Some plans will start with a lower premium that gradually increases over time while others will honor the premium at time of purchase throughout the life of the policy. 

6.    Will I need to re-apply for coverage next year? 

There are several coverage renewability options offered by insurers, but some are more common than others. For example, if your policy is a guaranteed renewable policy or a non-cancellable policy, then generally you need not re-apply for coverage every year unless you want to make changes. Some policies, however, are conditionally renewable meaning that they are only renewable if specific pre-outlined conditions are met. In this case, you will want to know the conditions under which the insurer can cancel coverage. 

As we are in the early months of 2019, keep this information in mind and make note of how you’re using your insurance throughout the year. It’s never too early to start reviewing your current policy and preparing for the upcoming year’s enrollment. Use these questions as a starting point for your research so you can enter enrollment season with confidence. 
 
1 Workforces Report. Open Enrollment Survey. 2016.
2“ How often do people change jobs?” The Balance. 2018.

Posted on February 19, 2019 in Consumer

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