The Three Worst Mistakes You Can Make During Open Enrollment — And How To Avoid Them

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Football is in full swing, Fall breezes are in the air, and the ubiquitous pumpkin spice flavoring is showing up in everything from lattes to candles to donuts. So, that means … Open Enrollment time is coming! Ok, I’ll curb my enthusiasm.

Mr. Serious gets a little excited about this stuff because he likes all things benefits. While I know that’s weird, he’s the family go-to on all things around selecting a plan. I asked him to help with this list and he wants to encourage you to avoid the making the WORST THREE MISTAKES you can make during Open Enrollment.* (Meaning, money. Because when it comes to selecting your benefits, the wrong plan can end up costing you a lot more money!)

The Three Worst Mistakes You Can Make During Open Enrollment — And How To Avoid Them including info on HSAs, FSAs and a handy calculator for making an informed choice

#1– Just Stick With What You Currently Have

Human beings are resistant to change, I get it. But sticking with the same health plan or benefit elections that you have this year, “just because,” is a bad move. You could end up like a toddler with a poopy diaper, you could get it changed, but it’s warm and it’s mine so I’ll stick with it… Yuck (thank you Mr. Serious for that delectable comparison).

Plan coverage can change from year to year, your health situation can change or another likely scenario is that you have been in a plan that doesn’t fit your health needs for years and you have been leaving money on the table. Don’t feel stuck. Take action!

#2 – Try To Make Your Decisions Without Help

Gone are the days of getting a giant paper packet of information in the mail, then using that as the only source of information to make you Open Enrollment decisions. You should evaluate your options by estimating your costs for the upcoming year, which includes doctor costs, prescription drugs and any planned/ expected procedures, such as a birth, knee surgery or that predictable annual visit to the allergist when you can’t stop sneezing.

However, that can get a little complicated with just a pencil and paper or calculator. You can use a spreadsheet like the one we have created to help (you can download it and plug in your appropriate numbers to help you make your decision.* Or, even better, your employer or insurance company could offer a “fancy” calculator that will do the math for you. Check to see if your employer offers a tool and use that.

The key is – ASK FOR HELP – don’t get stuck on a question or calculation and give up and revert to mistake #1. That stinks. (remember the poopy diaper analogy?)

The Three Worst Mistakes You Can Make During Open Enrollment — And How To Avoid Them including info on HSAs, FSAs and a handy calculator for making an informed choice

#3 – Ignore The Tax Savings of HSAs and FSAs

“What S.A.’s?” These are Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), which many employers offer so that their employees can pay out-of-pocket health expenses with tax-free money. I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty on these, but if you’re in the 25% tax bracket (and a lot of you are) and you contribute $2,500 to an FSA or HSA — you’ll save $625 on your annual Federal tax bill. Would you walk past that money on the street? No. Well, figuratively bend over and pick it up by using one of the “S.A.’s” my friend.

Take home message? Make sure you are looking at all of your options and taking advantage of everything being offered by your employer.

Have you made any mistakes when signing up for benefits that you won’t make again?

*Disclaimer: These are opinions. You need to make the selection that works best for you and your family. We cannot be held liable for the benefits plan decision you make. Just want to get that out in the open! Thank you to UHC for sponsoring this post. All thoughts are our own!

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25 Comments

  1. I get so stressed during open enrollment because I hate all the choices my husbands company gives us. It’s total chaos. These are super awesome tips though. Thanks Mr. Serious.

    1. I’m sort of glad they’ve decreased the number of choices we have. It seems like less flexibility, but we don’t have as much to waiver on!

  2. Open enrollment is not my most favorite time of fall! I get so overwhelmed with the choices that I’ve been known to do mistake #1. Luckily, my husband works well under pressure so he can make the best decisions for our family.

    1. Glad you hubby is there to help out for sure! We usually have discussions, but now we are on the same page so it’s a lot easier.

  3. “Toddler with a poopy diaper” LOL!! I’ll be thinking about that one all day, thanks. This is great info, open enrollment can be overwhelming with all the confusing choices. It’s good to know that there’s someone to help.

  4. We’re going to reevaluate this year for sure – our plan has bit the dust now since Obamacare is enacted all over. Whomp whomp……

    1. Obamacare has definitely made a lot of changes that require a fine tooth comb. For example, I know that parts of our plan were grandfathered in, so the few things that I like about the new laws aren’t in place yet for us.

  5. No mistakes here. When open enrollment came around this year I found out my monthly premium had increased almost 75%. This was a huge shock considering I was already on the $5,000 deductible plan, no co-pay no RX card just meet your deductible then 100% after that. With this huge increase and no increase on the co-pay RX card plan I was considering changing my plan. Fortunate for me I had Mr. Serious’ expertise to take advantage of. I sent him my information, he put it all on his above handy chart and showed. It showed me even with the 75% increase I was still better off on the plan I was currently on. Also due to my diligence and asking a lot of questions at my company we found out our medical insurance administrator did not put the correct employer contribution towards the monthly premium. After that was straightened out the premium was the same as it was last year.
    Definitely ask questions if there is the slightest confusion on your plan.

    1. Glad he was able to help and you didn’t just say okay!

  6. We joined an HSA last year and it has been the GREATEST thing for us! My husband’s company gives us incentives where the “pay” us by adding more $$ to our HSAs!

    1. The first year we had an option for an HSA, my hubby’s company put some money in it for us. Since then…no $$! Glad to hear yours is helping out!

  7. Great advice. Thank you. I think it’s important to always reevaluate and make sure you’re in the best possible situation for your family. Status quo isn’t always the best choice.

    1. Never take advantage? You don’t sign up for health benefits? You are missing out on some serious help!

  8. Awesome post! My hubby is a teacher and his open enrollment comes during the summer… I’m extremely bummed that he forgot to sign up for a FSA this year. But we had a new baby and many other things on our minds! Now I definitely won’t forget next year!

    1. Oh no…that is a bummer! I’m so sorry you missed out on that. The savings is huge!

  9. Thanks for these great tips. Open enrollment can be a confusing thing to navigate without help. The biggest mistake I ever made was signing up for an insurance plan with a large deductible. That’s always a bad move.

  10. What great advice, especially about FSA and HSAs and exploring your options! I always feel that it’s better to be an informed consumer so you can make the choices that are right for you and your family rather than just sticking with what’s comfortable!

  11. Great tips! I especially like the reminder to not just stick with what you have – it’s worth taking a few minutes to review what you have and what’s new. Thanks!

  12. Great tips! I especially like the reminder to not just stick with what you have – a few minutes to review the new options is a smart idea!

  13. I was pregnant last year during open enrollment, so we knew we’d have a lot of health expenses. We chose the plan with the lowest out of pocket max (in combination with the lowest premiums). We ignored everything else thinking we were being smart…. We’d know exactly our max family health costs: 12 months premiums + oop Max. WRONG. Thanks to ACA changes, co pays and deductibles don’t necessarily go towards your oop Max, and ours didn’t. EVERYTIMEwe see a dr (and we see a lot with 3 kids in daycare), it’s a $50 co pay ($75 for specialists). My son was admitted to the hospital (twice), and each time had a $1000 co pay. ER visits are $250 (and we’ve had two). So even though we reached our oop Max in February, we’ve had an additional several thousand $$ in copays. Sooo frustrating. It’s been an expensive year (and mistake)

    1. Oh no! Yeah, those co-pays can kill you if they don’t apply! That’s crazy that you met your oop max but still have to pay the copays!

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