When it comes to managing your money, there are a lot of less-than-pleasant tasks you'll need to deal with -- from saving for retirement to paying off debt to building a solid emergency fund.
There are certain tasks, though, that some people find simply unbearable. Namely, reviewing health insurance options during open enrollment. Although this is something everyone should be doing, far too many people skip it -- and it could potentially cost you loads of cash.
The healthcare mistake most people are making
It's open enrollment season, which means it's time to update your benefits plan. But if you're dreading the task of reviewing your plan options, you're not alone. In fact, most people don't make any changes to their plan at all, with a whopping 93% of workers choosing to keep the same benefits every year, according to a 2018 survey from Aflac.
Of course, if your current plan is working for you just fine, you may not feel the need to make any adjustments. Or even if you know your current plan is less than stellar, you still may not think it's worth the effort to research your other options. Reviewing insurance plans isn't something many workers look forward to doing, and more than 40% say they'd rather perform some other unpleasant task -- like picking up dog poop -- than research their benefit options, according to Aflac's survey.
However, as unpleasant as it is, it's important to use open enrollment as an opportunity to see if there are better health insurance options out there. You'll never know what's available if you simply stick to the same plan out of convenience, and as a result, you might be overpaying for health insurance without realizing it. Especially if your health or household situation has changed in the past year -- for example, if you've developed a certain health condition or are expecting to have a baby soon -- your current insurance plan may no longer be optimal.
Although it's not the most exciting way to spend your time, reviewing your benefit options can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year. In fact, the average worker can save around $642 per year by choosing the plan that's the very best fit for their situation, rather than the plan that's only the second-best fit, according to research from Jellyvision, a company that helps people make smart choices about their benefits.
To make sure you're choosing the best option for you, there are a few things to keep in mind as you browse different health insurance options.
Tips for choosing the right plan
Reviewing your health insurance options during open enrollment can be daunting, but by arming yourself with as much knowledge as you can, you can make the process a little easier.
First, make sure you aren't fooled by fancy-sounding labels when reviewing different plans. A gold plan may sound like it's better than a silver or bronze plan, for example, but that's not necessarily the case for everyone. Depending on your unique situation, you might be able to get the care you need at a much more affordable price by choosing a more basic option. Don't be swayed by the labels alone, and make sure you're looking at the actual information within the plan.
Next, know what to look for when you're deciding between plans. If keeping your current doctors is important to you, make sure the plan you choose allows you to stay with them. Also, if you don't expect to need much care this year other than routine doctor visits, you may opt for a plan with a higher deductible and lower premiums to save some money each month.
Finally, do some research to make sure you understand all the healthcare jargon. Insurance lingo can sometimes seem like its own language, and it can be overwhelming to decipher all the terms when trying to choose the right plan. Study up on terminology like "deductible," "copay," "HMOs," and "PPOs," since they're some of the most common ones you'll see when you're comparing plans. You may even choose to keep a handy list of these terms and their definitions nearby that you can refer to as you're researching.
Also, it's never a bad idea to talk to someone in your human resources department at work if you need help. They can answer any questions you may have about the different plans available, or they can refer you to other resources that can help make your decision a little easier.
Choosing the right health insurance plan can be overwhelming and intimidating, and it's probably not the most pleasant task on your to-do list. However, it's an important one to tackle. You may find that you don't need to make any changes to your benefits, or you may find a better plan that provides more expansive care at a more affordable price. Either way, by reviewing your options during the open enrollment period, you can rest easy knowing you're making the best decision for you and your family.