Open Enrollment Paperwork – Part 2 of 2

Open Enrollment Paperwork – Part 1 of 2Though our open enrollment selections have been made, we can still change those options until October 31. I’m thankful for the time to consider our choices as I have had to change or add benefits after meeting with our representative.

One year, we had a representative that did not add our flexible spending account information, so I had to fill out the paperwork and fax it in by the deadline. Whew!

In considering the open enrollment process, we started last week looking at a six-step system for getting through the open enrollment paperwork. The six steps are as follows:

  • Step One: Open Enrollment Types

  • Step Two: Open Enrollment Options

  • Step Three: Open Enrollment Status Quo

  • Step Four: Open Enrollment Changes

  • Step Five: Open Enrollment Plan Comparisons

  • Step Six: Open Enrollment Selections

In Part 2 of this two-part series, I will complete steps four through six which uses the information gathered in steps one through three. With the documents gathered, let’s start with step four: open enrollment changes.

Step Four: Open Enrollment Changes

With our current selections identified, I went through the insurance newsletter and noted any changes to our current selections. This let me know the new amount we would pay in premiums for the same selections next year.

Expecting an increase, I was not surprised to discover that the same coverage from 2013 will cost around $20 more a month in 2014. We are fortunate in that it only went up slightly. Others are noting a 40% increase in premium costs. Ouch!

Step Five: Open Enrollment Plan Comparisons

Each year, I take our current selections and compare them with the other available options. Thus far, we have found our current options fit our family best.

However, I still check each year because plans change as well as our family needs. This step gives me peace of mind that I have considered each option and made the best decision based on the information provided.

Step Six: Open Enrollment Selections

Knowing the best options for our family, I write out our selections and note any questions I might have. I also calculate our flexible medical spending account by listing out medical expenses I know we will incur (physicals, dental cleanings, vision exams, glasses, contacts, and at least 5 sick visits (1 for each of us)).

I am careful not to overestimate as money in this account is either use it or lose it. However, I want to guess pretty close because the money in this account gets put aside before taxes are withdrawn. Saving on taxes is always a nice touch.

With all these decisions made, Paul and I schedule a meeting with a benefits’ representative to make these open enrollment selections. The meeting usually lasts about a half hour. By the end, we have made our selections and have our questions answered.

Then we wait for open enrollment confirmation and any additional notices or documentation from the providers regarding our selections. Those notices and all open enrollment paperwork are filed within file box 2.

Of course, changes may occur. The day we had our open enrollment meeting, we received notification via mail that our prescription provider changed. This update did not affect our premiums or deductibles, but it is a change that will affect our insurance cards.

Staying on top of open enrollment issues and working through the process allows me to see the big picture and suggest the best options. Then Paul and I choose the options that best fit our budget and our family needs.

As you work through your open enrollment, I hope this process will help. Sometimes just knowing where to start can ease the overwhelming feeling associated with multiple option plans. Each employer handles open enrollment differently, so starting early will give you time to prepare. Happy selecting!

Question: In what season do you have open enrollment?  

Open Enrollment Paperwork – Part 1 of 2

Open Enrollment Paperwork – Part 1 of 2

Photograph Credit: Fotolia

On the heels of getting our important documents organized, I needed to access those records for our open enrollment paperwork.

My parents worked through their open enrollment this summer with an August deadline. Our open enrollment occurs during the fall and continues through October with all changes effective on January 1, 2014.

This process can get frustrating. We dealt with issues this past year when our vision care provider decided to drop our doctor from the plan after our open enrollment period ended last year but before the effective date. Going through appeals, we finally got to see our eye doctor at the price we expected to pay.

Though you plan and prepare, you can only make decisions with the information you have. Prior to making our open enrollment selections, I went through these six steps:

  • Step One: Open Enrollment Types

  • Step Two: Open Enrollment Options

  • Step Three: Open Enrollment Status Quo

  • Step Four: Open Enrollment Changes

  • Step Five: Open Enrollment Plan Comparisons

  • Step Six: Open Enrollment Selections

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I will focus on steps one through three. Steps four through six will publish next week. Let’s begin with step one: open enrollment types.

Step One: Open Enrollment Types

Whether you have annual enrollment, open enrollment, or alternate between the two, you get to make your benefit decisions during a limited time frame. If you ignore open enrollment, then you may end up paying far more than necessary for your medical and personal services.

Our family alternates between open enrollment and annual enrollment. For open enrollment years, we can opt in and out of all our benefits, including medical, dental, vision, and insurance. During annual enrollment years, we are limited to just medical and select insurance changes.

Step Two: Open Enrollment Options

My husband’s employer prepares an insurance newsletter highlighting the options available. This year’s booklet was 12 pages and included all the increases and modifications to the plans available for our choosing.

In using time wisely to make the best decisions for our family, I read the entire booklet to get a full picture of our options. Usually I get this information about a month prior to the open enrollment deadline which gives me time to read it.

I take the booklet to the playground when my kids are playing or read snippets in car line while waiting to pickup my children from school. Choosing blocks of time that work for me, I can usually get through the booklet within a few days to a week.

Step Three: Open Enrollment Status Quo

Before figuring out which options to choose, I start with what we currently have – our status quo. Accessing our current benefits and amounts we pay, I printed a hard copy for our reference which indicated our monthly premiums.

I also chose a current pay stub showing those amounts per paycheck. Seeing the amounts by both the monthly and per paycheck methods helped us determine our financial choices for the coming year.

In using time wisely investing in understanding the open enrollment process, I have found the preparation phase gets easier each year. Being familiar with the procedures, the newsletter format, and knowing our own options helps me better evaluate our situation and needs.

Taking time to educate yourself in your insurance options and needs will give you confidence as you deal with doctor’s offices, insurance companies, and benefits’ administrators. As I appealed our vision benefits this year, I addressed the issues based on the documentation supplied and won. 🙂

If you are in the process of open enrollment, start with the information you have available through your benefits’ administrator. Read any publications provided to determine your type of enrollment and options. Then check your current selections before making any decisions.

Next week, we will look at steps four through six. Happy researching!

Question: What type of enrollment does your employer have?

Personal Insurance: Medical Information Bureau Reports

Did you work a few minutes this week on filing your important documents? Even with my documents organized, I still have to keep up those files.

Though I did not file any paperwork this week, I did access my files and sort in-coming insurance documents.

To start or maintain your files, take it one step at a time. Plan to spend a few minutes this week, set the timer, and organize.

In File Box #2, the first file opening houses our personal insurance documents: summary page, annual enrollment reports, former severance package, and privacy policies and travel insurance. The last items in this first category are our medical information bureau reports.

Medical Information Bureau Reports

The MIB, Inc. (formerly the Medical Information Bureau, Inc.) is a non-profit organization that keeps a database of any health, disability, or life insurance for which you have applied.

Information in your Report

If your applications required a medical exam where a medical issue was noted, then that medical issue is coded (per MIB’s system) and reported in their database. If you then apply for another policy, the new insurance company will access your MIB file and discover that information.

Since both Paul and I have life insurance policies for which we applied and had medical exams, I requested our free annual report from MIB, Inc. If you have never applied for health, disability, or life insurance, then you will not have any information on file.

NOTE: If you only have insurance through employer group plans, then you will not have information in your file. The MIB file only records information on personal insurance policies for which you apply.

Another reason your file might be empty would be if your insurance policies have been held longer than 7 years. Just like your credit report, entries older than seven years are purged from your file.

Requesting your Report

If you want more information regarding MIB, Inc., read this easy-to-understand article. When you decide to request your free report (which you should), visit MIB, Inc.’s web site for more information and their phone number.

Reviewing your Report

When you receive your free report, review it for errors, and file the accurate report in this file. If you find discrepancies, then contact MIB to correct the inaccuracies.

Our Medical Information Bureau reports complete our personal insurance category. As you request these reports, your  insurance file will be in a pending status since you cannot add those document until they arrive. Just keep plugging along organizing other important documents, and then tackle these MIB documents when they arrive.

Great job working on your important documents! This process is time-consuming, but using time wisely now will save you time in the future. Keep up the good work, and happy organizing!

Question: Where are you in the process? I would love to cheer you on as you get your documents organized!

Personal Insurance: Privacy Policies and Travel Insurance

Welcome 2012! With the arrival of a new year and a new month, I celebrated this afternoon by decluttering, cleaning, and re-organizing my dining room. Love to start the new year off getting organized. If you are setting goals to get organized this year, then Using Time Wisely is your ally.

On Sundays, I highlight an area of document organization. Having covered in 2011 Box 1, which has credit cards/credit reports and scores, personal, home ownership, and vehicle documents, we continue our insurance document organization housed in Box 2. This series reveals my organizational system. Please adjust and adapt this system to meet your needs. Finding a home for all those documents will make retrieving them a snap.

Thus far in Box 2, our first category, personal insurance, resides in the first file opening. In my file, the summary page, annual enrollment reports, and former severance package fill most of this first file slot. The next two sets of documents are privacy policies and travel insurance documentation.

Privacy Policies

At one point, I housed all the privacy policies from all the insurance companies in this file. But as we have added policies, I found that keeping the privacy notices with the insurance policies is the best use of my time. I do not need to search two different file folders (one for the policy and one for the privacy notice) when I need these documents.

With all the other privacy policies with their associated insurance policies, I have one privacy policy that remains: the health insurance program for South Carolina. This state agency does not write any insurance policies, but they are the administrator of our group insurance policies. Keeping their privacy policy documentation housed in this file with the annual enrollment documentation works for me.

Travel Insurance

As holders of Visa credit cards (Yes, I use credit cards for 90% of my purchases and pay off those amounts each month!), we receive worldwide automatic travel accident and baggage delay insurance when we pay for our flights with our Visa credit card.

Visa sent us the Description of Coverage which outlines the plan, eligibility, cost, beneficiary, benefits, exclusions, and effective date. In the event I need to file a claim, I can find the information quickly from the documentation, kept safe in this file.

In keeping my family’s personal insurance documents organized, I have placed the privacy policy and travel insurance documentation behind the former severance package paperwork. In continuing this series next week (without anymore Top 10 interruptions), I will complete this first category in Box 2.

Keep plugging along. By breaking down your goals to little sections, you will get there. Choose to organize one file this week. Work on a new one next week. Within a few weeks, you will have a category complete. You can do it! Happy organizing!

Personal Insurance: Former Severance Package

With so many documents housed in the important documents filing system, I forget about most of them until the day I need them.

In preparing for this post, I pulled out the Separation and Release Agreement, also known as a severance package, from Paul’s former employer. I remember that day.

I was at home with our infant son when Paul called to say he had been served these documents. Knowing it was due to cutbacks rather than his inabilities or work ethic, Paul accepted the offer without any regrets and did not look back.

You see God had already prepared a job for Paul. Months prior to the layoff, Paul applied for a position with the State. Within a week of receiving this severance package, Paul got a phone call informing him that he got the State job.

As I look at this severance package, I am reminded of God’s provision for our family. Not only did God provide a job, he also increased our benefits with retirement options, full insurance coverage, weeks of vacation, and increased salary. Though the layoff might have seemed to be devastating, God directed us from a good situation to a better one. Praise be to the Lord!

Former Severance Package

This former severance package is housed in Box 2 of our important documents. After the summary page and the annual enrollment documents, I have these documents stapled together:

  • Separation and Release Agreement (11 pages)
  • Paul’s notes from Human Resources meeting (1 page)
  • Insurance explanations (5 pages)

Housed behind the annual enrollment documents, this severance package resides. Though I have not needed these documents, I keep them for reference and as a reminder of God’s unfailing work on our behalf. What a comfort to know that God sees the big picture when only the next step is visible.

If you are struggling financially or are working through a layoff, look to your Creator for comfort, wisdom, and provision, for God is good ALL THE TIME.