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December 15th is right around the corner. Time to make your healthcare coverage selection is running out fast. If you haven’t selected your health coverage yet, don’t put it off a moment longer. Review the checklist of items below that I’ve adapted from a list on I’ve included the most important points for your consideration in order to help break down the process for you and make your decision making process faster and easier. Print it out, take it to the office and go over each point carefully and completely.

1.Evaluate Your Medical Coverage Offerings

This is the most important and most complicated decision you have to make. There are many things to take into consideration when choosing a plan. Ask yourself the following questions:

How often do you tend to visit the doctor?

Do you anticipate a change in your health care needs?

Will you soon have more dependents to cover? Perhaps a new baby is on the way?

Do you take regular prescription medications?

How much will the plan will cost you?  Take into consideration the expenses beyond your monthly premium: deductible, co-pay, co-insurance, total out-of-pocket limits, and out-of-network coverage.

And most importantly, check to make sure your doctors, specialists and preferred hospitals are still covered by your chosen network.

2. Dental and Vision Benefits


Once you’ve selected your core health plan, check to see if your employer offers dental and vision coverage. Some health insurance plans may incorporate these benefits.  If they don’t, you may be able to elect standalone plans.

For vision insurance, you may be able to choose between a vision benefits plan or a vision discount plan. With a vision benefits plan, you pay a premium in exchange for eye care coverage usually with an allowance for frames and lenses. A vision discount plan typically offers lower premiums, but only for a percentage discount off services from participating eye practitioners.

When it comes to dental insurance, make sure your dentist accepts the plan you are offered. And, while it might be important to consider whether you anticipate only needing to cover preventive checkups and cleanings or services like root canals, oral surgery or orthodontics in the coming year, remember these types of things are impossible to anticipate.

3. Determine the value of opening a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or a Health Savings Account (HSA)


Both of these types of accounts enable you to use pretax money to cover eligible health expenses, such as premiums and deductibles, over-the-counter medications, prescription eyeglasses, and acupuncture. However there are important differences between the two.

The FSA is company-owned.  If you don’t use all the funds in the account by year-end, you could end up losing the cash. (Your employer may allow up to a $500 rollover, but they aren’t required to do so.) For 2016 the maximum you can contribute to an FSA is $2,550.

An HSA is in your name and your control.  Your funds can be rolled over from year to year and the money can be invested, but you can only contribute to the account if you have a high-deductible health plan. For 2016 the contribution limit is $3,350 for individuals, and $6,750 for a family, with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution for those who are 55 and older.

4. Reassess Your Retirement Contributions


Open enrollment can be a good time to determine if you may want to change your contributions going into 2016. If your employer offers a 401(k) match, check to see if you are contributing enough to maximize that match.

5. Review Your Insurance Options


Open enrollment is a good time to consider other types of coverage your company may offer that could help protect your income.

Life insurance: If you have a family or other dependents who rely on you for financial support, a company-sponsored life insurance policy can help provide some level of protection or help supplement any existing life insurance you may have.

Disability insurance: The reality is that you never know when a disabling injury could happen, so consider calculating your PDQ (personal disability quotient) to see what the chances are that someone in your demographic could suffer a disability.

Once you’ve run your number, find out what short- and long-term disability insurance options are available to you, so you’re covered should a temporary illness or more serious disease keep you from being able to work.

One important thing to check for, specifically, is whether your company offers “own occupation” versus “any occupation” disability insurance. Own-occupation policies tend to offer better benefits because they consider you disabled if you’re unable to perform the same job you held. Any-occupation policies define disabled as being unable to perform any job for which you are reasonably qualified.

Accidental death and dismemberment insurance: This coverage can provide an additional financial cushion in the event an accident causes you or someone in your family to die, lose a limb, or suffer impairment to speech, hearing or eyesight.

6. Update Your Beneficiaries


Make certain all of your designated beneficiaries are up-to-date. Your beneficiary designations override what’s written in a will, so it’s important that you keep them up to date. If you’ve recently gotten married or had a child, be sure to put your new family members as beneficiaries instead of a friend or distant relative.

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The government deadline for picking health care coverage falls right smack in the middle of the holiday season; December 15th. If your company offers benefits, the election deadline could be even sooner. With the distraction of the holidays it is easy to miss deadlines or miss opportunities by not spending the necessary time to consider the best options.

Rushing through the election process could end up costing you more money and could have an impact on your health. The results of a 2014 Aflac study reveal that a whopping 46% of people spend just a half hour or less reviewing their health-plan offerings. 

Keep in mind that your health care expenses include more than your monthly premium. You must also consider and factor in your deductible, co-pay, co-insurance, total out-of-pocket limits as well as out-of-network coverage.

Set aside a couple of quiet hours and weigh all the factors to discover what makes the most sense for your situation. And don’t forget to make sure and double-check that your doctors, specialists and preferred hospitals are still covered if you choose a new network.

I know it seems like a daunting task, but a good healthcare plan is one of the most important gifts you can give to yourself and your family. Making decisions that impact your family in such a profound way takes time and deserves the time it takes.

In the next article posted on my website soon, I’ll provide an enrollment benefits checklist that’s easy to follow with six key items that you will want to make sure to do. You won’t want to miss it, so check back soon.

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