One of the most important decisions a person will make is choosing the right health insurance plan. However, very few employees do enough research about their health benefits. A recent study conducted by Aflac showed that more than 40 percent of employees spent less than 15 minutes researching available benefits during the 2013 open enrollment period. About 25 percent of the people surveyed spent less than five minutes researching benefits. The survey was conducted in June of 2014 and included more than 2,000 participants. To show a comparison of what people will spend more time researching, Aflac provided some other common topics of interest and average time frames for research or shopping. These include the following:
- Participants spent 10 hours researching new vehicle purchases.
- Participants shopped for new computers for four hours.
- Participants spent about five hours planning vacations.
- Participants spent nearly two hours deciding which television to buy.
Most employees pay more than $4,500 annually toward employer-sponsored health plans for themselves and their families. Since they spend this much, it puzzles experts that these workers invest so little time researching benefits in comparison with other major purchases. Choosing a health plan should always be considered a major purchase and treated as such when it comes to investing time for research. Experts encourage employers to stress the importance of not only participating in benefits plans but also researching what is available.
Common Enrollment Mistakes
People who do not spend enough time researching their available benefits will often make quick decisions that cost them money later. Researchers found that about 90 percent of employees are using automatic enrollment, so they use the same benefits every year instead of researching what is newly available and possibly better. About 40 percent of participants waste as much as $750 annually on insurance benefits mistakes. Researchers also found the following:
- Nearly 75 percent of workers never, rarely or barely understand all that their policy covers.
- About 65 percent of workers disagree or barely agree that they are better prepared this year for open enrollment in contrast with last year.
- More than 60 percent of workers never, rarely or barely understand changes made to their coverage.
To better prepare for open enrollment every year, it is important for workers to take steps to be proactive. The best way to do this is to find and use the available educational resources offered. Contact a benefits plan manager or employer to obtain this information. To help reduce the amount of confusion during enrollment, experts recommend these tips:
- Understand all of the financial consequences that decisions have on a budget.
- Make sure deductibles and premiums are both affordable, and find a good median between them.
- Attend seminars, webinars and other educational events for benefits.
- Review and compare all benefits options carefully.
- Request meetings with agents or brokers to answer questions when necessary.
- If there are questions or terms are difficult to understand, ask for clarification.
- Be sure to understand upfront expenses, deductibles and voluntary insurance options.