It’s the most wonderful time of the year – open enrollment season! While it may not necessarily produce as many warm and fuzzy memories as Thanksgiving or other holidays, open enrollment season is still something to look forward to. Setting up your benefits correctly can help you make the most out of your money in the coming year.

If you’re enrolling through your employer, find out their open enrollment timeframe, as many employers’ open enrollment seasons come to a close well before the end of the year.

Understand your plan.

Don’t just look at the total price of each plan – be sure you understand all the details of what it covers. Some less-expensive plans might seem like a good idea based on the price, but could ultimately backfire if you end up getting sick or injured and need care. That’s not to say those plans can’t make sense. These types of plans might be the right choice for healthy people who rarely need medical treatment. Before you sign up for anything, look at more than the price to make sure you’re clear on what is and isn’t covered.

Remember doctors and prescriptions.

Do you regularly see any specific doctors or other specialists? Similarly, do you take any brand-name prescription drugs? If so, you’ll want to double-check the policy you’re considering to see whether these doctors and medications are covered. If they’re not, you could end up paying quite a hefty price out of your own pocket.

Know your options.

Even if your employer offers insurance policies, you don’t necessarily have to purchase coverage through them. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, if your coverage is deemed “unaffordable,” which means you’re paying more than 9.5% of your adjusted gross income for your policy, you can purchase coverage through a healthcare exchange instead. In addition, depending on your wages, you may be eligible for Medicaid.

If the deadlines pass and you don’t have coverage, you’ll pay a penalty. In 2017 and 2018, it was $695 for each adult over the age of 18 without coverage, with fees for households that include children under the age of 18 maxed at $2,085, or 2.5% of taxable income, whichever is more.[1]

The penalty will be eliminated beginning in 2019; however, if you weren’t covered in 2018, you’ll still pay a fee when you file your taxes in 2019.

Open enrollment season with healthcare exchanges is already underway.

Be aware of deadlines.

Open enrollment for all healthcare exchanges, where you can purchase health insurance policies made available by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, runs from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31. If you want your coverage to begin right on Jan. 1, experts recommend you sign up no later than Dec. 15.[2] Of course, there are circumstances that allow you to file outside of this time window, such as having a baby or moving to a new state, but in general, be sure to get your paperwork in before the deadline passes.

If you really want to make the most of the season, talk with an expert about your options, such as a human resources professional at your company or an insurance agent — and use it as a time to think about other financial festivities as well, such as retirement investments. Cheers to the season — happy planning!

 

[1] https://www.healthcare.gov/fees/

[2] https://www.healthcare.gov/quick-guide/dates-and-deadlines/