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How to Navigate Open Enrollment at the Office

November 13, 2016

Ah, November. A time of year that signals Red Cups, Friendsgiving, and open enrollment.

Open enrollment is the time of year your job lets you make changes to your benefits. Frankly, despite the number of conference calls or webcasts a company offers, it can be a tad confusing.

I chatted with one of my very good friends in HR to help navigate your benefits. I’m also sharing my own open enrollment tips and tricks below. While these may not all apply to you, a few of these may serve as reminders for you to check with your local HR rep.

Commuting Discounts.

I worked at one job for a year before I realized they had a discount for commuters called WageWorks. I could elect to put a certain amount of money from my paycheck on a debit card, specific for commuting.  Depending on how much you elect to put on it, WageWorks will take a portion of your paycheck pre-tax (up to $255) and the rest post tax. Then, I solely use this card for all my commuting costs. This may be a benefit you overlook in orientation when you are more concerned with things like health insurance, or your situation may have changed since you joined your company.

Since moving to the burbs, I’m spending more than $400 a month on my commute, as opposed to $116. As a result, this pre-tax benefit is more helpful than ever before.  However, I will admit I used this benefit when I solely had a Metrocard as I believe every bit helps.  You can also sign up to have your ticket directly mailed to you instead of getting the money on the card. At other places of employment, I’ve had HR literally give us a voucher to use towards a metro card. Every place is different, so you may want to see if this benefit exists.

Make Sure You Have All The Insurance You Truly Need. 

Last year I went to the eye doctor for my annual exam. Imagine my shock when the bill came to $500. Little did I know, vision insurance was a separate plan I forgot to elect when I started my job, despite wearing glasses since I was 8. Now is the time to double check that you have dental, vision and medical. Sometimes your elections from last year do not carry over so make sure that you check that you have opted into everything you need.

Getting Pregnant? Get Short Term Disability. 

If you are planning on having a child, make sure to sign up for short-term disability. I get twice as much maternity with this benefit than if I did not have it. I have heard from a few moms you need to sign up for this before getting pregnant otherwise, it will be considered a pre-existing condition and you may not be eligible. Some companies provide this as a company sponsored benefit but check to see what your company offers!

Health Savings Account. 

Some employees offer you a service similar to WageWorks. Every month, a portion of my paycheck is taken out pre-tax for health items. I can then apply any health expenses for my family to this account. Anytime I have had a co-pay, prescription or purchased contact lenses, I can submit the receipt to my health savings account and I will get reimbursed. If you go to the doctor a lot or purchase medication frequently, you’ll want this benefit. There’s even a list of over the counter items you can buy that you can put towards this benefit. Keep in mind, this is a use it or lose it plan but you do have a few months overlap to the next year if you still have a balance.

As an added bonus, some companies will also allow you to reimburse daycare, up to a certain amount, pre-tax. This may be separate from a Health Savings Account, but usually, it’s in this section of paperwork that you can apply.

Have you learned any tips or tricks during open enrollment? Share them with us!

Save now, re-read later:

HR Know-How: Open Enrollment Tips and Tricks - triedguide.com

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