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10 questions to ask at open enrollment time

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You might have heard that employees spend more time planning a vacation than figuring out their benefit choices during open enrollment.

Well, duh. We’d all rather be wading into an infinity pool in Cancun instead of stuck in the suburbs, wading through open enrollment options — and that even goes for employee benefits people, who live and breathe HSAs and deductibles.

But paying attention to your benefits choices can help you save money, says Renee Preslar, communications manager at Transamerica Employee Benefits.

“It’s important to spend time reviewing your company’s voluntary benefits options,” she says. “With high deductible health plans on the rise, supplemental insurance can add value to your benefits portfolio and help you save money on your annual medical expenses.”

So how are employees supposed to know what kinds of insurance to consider and what benefit levels to select? These 10 questions from Transamerica are a good place to start.


1. What’s my share of medical costs?

Deductibles, copays and coinsurance amounts are on the rise, so be sure to find out what they are before looking at policies designed to help with these and other expenses.

An important part of financial planning is understanding what you would have to pay for a costly medical event such as an accident or critical illness.


2. What are my out-of-pocket non-medical expenses?

Many expenses such as transportation, child care, and lost income due to missing work are not covered by your major medical insurance.

These non-medical costs can add up quickly.  


3. Do I want to use my savings for these expenses?

Even if there’s enough money in the bank to handle them, wouldn’t you rather use your savings for your next vacation?

Supplemental insurance is an option some consider.  

For example, according to Transamerica, purchasing a critical illness policy would pay a lump sum cash benefit after a heart attack, and that money could be used for travel to see a specialist or to cover child care while you focus on recovery.


4. How would I make up for lost income if I became disabled?

Many employers offer some sort of coverage for long-term disability.

Consider what could happen if you can’t work for three to six months due to a back injury. Short-term disability insurance provides a percentage of your pay for a specified period of time.


5. What’s my health history?

Past problems could indicate a predisposition to other problems and recurrences of similar issues. Is there a chance you might need hospitalization? Hospital indemnity insurance pays benefits for hospital stays.


6. What’s my family medical history?

Has anyone in your family had cancer, heart disease, or high blood pressure? Consider how cancer insurance or critical illness insurance can help if you’ve inherited certain family illnesses.


7. What does my family like to do in our spare time?

Playing sports, hiking, or spending time at the lake? Some activities carry more risk for injury. Accident insurance pays benefits you can use for medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses.


8. Do I go in for routine eye exams and dental cleanings?

Your eyes may be a window to your soul but they can also help detect potential health issues. Plus, protecting your oral health represents a crucial disease-prevention strategy.

Vision and dental insurance can be helpful.  

Consider what you’d spend without one or both of these types of policies and balance that amount against the cost of coverage.


9. How does my age affect my health risk factors? 

Getting older can make insurance even more important.

At younger ages, the risk is lower so some types of insurance are more affordable. Take a look at your employer’s group rates — they may be lower than you think.


10. Does anyone need my income in the event of my death?

Do I have life insurance? Do I have enough life insurance? Group life insurance is competitively priced and offers certain levels of coverage on a guaranteed issue basis.

Asking these questions and checking with your employer about these benefits can help create a clearer picture of your life and supplemental health insurance needs, so you can select the right policies to help protect yourself and your family from life’s curve balls.


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