Oct 21 2008

Open enrollment: Save money with your benefits package

For some employers, this time of year is known as “open enrollment.” Many employees can take a look at their benefits package and make changes to their health plan or other benefits during this time of the year only.

It’s open enrollment for Shane’s employer, and we’re making a few changes that will hopefully save us a little bit of money.

If you’re blessed to have certain employment benefits and your open enrollment period is right now, definitely review your options. You don’t want to miss any new benefits (or old ones you didn’t know about) and you want to make sure your coverage matches your family’s needs.

Health insurance – Our HMO has worked really well for us in the last year and we’re going to keep it. I’ve been pleased with the customer service on the HMO side, and the medical providers and the associated costs.

Dental insurance – We have one option for dental insurance, and we’re keeping that the same as well.

Vision insurance – Shane and I are both glasses and contacts wearers, so it makes sense for us to keep our vision insurance. Shane’s company offers two vision plans: A discount plan which has no cost to the employee, and an insurance plan that covers exams and either a set of glasses or contacts per year (with some restrictions). If one or both of us had 20/20 vision, we wouldn’t likely need this coverage. But, we do.

Medical flexible spending account – I’ve really appreciated having our flexible spending account to pay for our out-of-pocket medical expenses over the year. We’ve used it for co-pays, dental treatments, medicines, my first-aid kits, and other similar things. However, we decided to contribute a little bit less to it. We did our best to estimate how many co-pays we can expect, added up the cost of our vision needs for the year, and threw in a small buffer for those unexpected things. We might run out of the FSA funds before 2009 is over, but we won’t have to worry about the funds going to waste.

In case you aren’t familiar, an FSA account is paid with pre-tax dollars, so you can enjoy a substantial savings on your medical needs. If you elect to contribute $1,200 per year, then you’ll see a $100 deduction from your paycheck each month to fund it. The full $1,200 should be available for use by the first of the year, even though it hasn’t been completely funded by you.

If you have an FSA, look and see if you can get a debit card to use instead of being reimbursed. I love the convenience of my card!

Dependent care flexible spending account
– Some employers also offer an FSA for the use of dependent care. If this is a need for your family, look into using your pre-tax dollars to help pay for it.

Group legal plan – We decided to enroll in Shane’s company’s group legal plan for the year. After adding up the monthly cost, we think it would be much cheaper to go that route than to privately hire an attorney to help us with our wills and other legal documents that responsible adults have to tend to. I don’t imagine we’ll need it for the following year, so I’ll remove it at next year’s open enrollment.

Other benefits you might want to explore:

Commuter pass – Shane takes the city bus to work, as many people around here do. His employer offers a monthly bus pass that can be paid with pre-tax dollars.

Life and disability insurance – Your employer might offer an optional group term life insurance policy. It might be already included with your benefits, or you might be able to buy coverage for a really cheap price. The same might hold true for disability insurance. Check it out to find out what’s what.

Discounts – You just never know what your human resources department might be offering in terms of discounts. You might be entitled to discount cards for use at area merchants, discounted admission to attractions, and who knows what else.

A representative of a health insurance company e-mailed me about open enrollment things, and it reminded me to blog about this. The e-mail included a link to a page with more suggestions on optimizing your health needs during this time.

What other benefits should people explore? Do you have suggestions on how they can save money?

7 Responses to “Open enrollment: Save money with your benefits package”

  1. re: reducing FSA contribution – remember, the baby! the baby is going to cost you more in medical than you think, even if they are the healthiest infant in the world. Babies get sick sometimes and it is scary, especially the first time you go through it, and you visit the pedi more than you think you will. And there are the dreaded ear infections and antibiotics and just all the visits in general.

    Just a thought from a mom who said she’d never take her kid to the doctor cause they’d be perfect all the time ;). Even with the second, she ended up spending 2 weeks on a portable bili light at home… yikes that was expensive.

    You can’t predict what the baby will cost but I can guarantee it’ll be more than you think. :)

    paidtwice’s last blog post..Credit Card Debt The Next National Financial Disaster?

  2. Thanks for the suggestion! I haven’t forgotten about him, and I know there’s no way I can predict how many times we’ll go to the doc in his first year.

    Hopefully our contributions and my little buffer will be at least close to enough.

    Fortunately, our health insurance is really good so even an ER visit shouldn’t break the bank.

  3. Thanks for the reminder. Our FSA opens again in December. I totally forgot to re-up last year.

    castocreations’s last blog post..Giggle at Griffin

  4. Yeah. I wanted to mention the baby too. Even the healthiest of babies sees the doctor at least 8 times in the first year. for us that was $160 in copays right there. That’s also if they don’t get sick AT ALL!! It’s a really good idea for pregnant women who are having babies in the heat of flu season to get their flu shot now, too. Any little bit of protection helps!

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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