Making Optimal Choices During Open Enrollment

Making Optimal Choices During Open Enrollment

Open enrollment season for employer benefits can be stressful. It only happens once a year, and with changing options and plans plus the time pressure of the deadline, it can feel overwhelming. You’re choosing plans for the entire upcoming year, and features vary widely, so how do you make the best choice when it feels like you’re comparing apples to oranges?

Here are some tips from our own insurance partners and benefits team:

  • Don’t try to make these decisions while you’re at work. Use that time to attend information sessions and gather materials, but make time outside of working hours to make these important selections.
  • If you’re married and your spouse’s employer offers benefits, compare and contrast the offerings to know which ones meet your needs. This can be tricky if the open enrollment timeframes are different, but ask your HR teams if they anticipate any changes so you can make informed choices. You may end up purchasing vision and dental from one employer but medical from another. Be sure to ask about any fees for spousal coverage so you can factor those in.
  • Use the total of the previous year’s healthcare expenses, including premiums, as a gauge to help you decide which plan is right for you. Include estimates for any known upcoming surgeries or procedures. Many employers and insurance partners offer online calculators like this one where you can plug in information to help you decide.
  • Review the basic key differences among your employer’s insurance offerings and the tax-advantaged accounts that you may be eligible for. For example:
    • Participating in an eligible high-deductible healthcare plan allows you to open and contribute pre-tax to a Health Savings Account (HSA). You’ll have to consider some eligibility rules, and our Health & Benefits team summarized them in this handy chart.
    • For participants in traditional health insurance plans or Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, your employer may offer a healthcare Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to which you can contribute pre-tax for healthcare expenses.
    • HSA holders cannot open a health FSA, but if it’s offered by your employer, you can open and contribute pre-tax to a Limited Purpose Flexible Spending Account (LPFSA) just for vision and dental expenses.
    • All tax-advantaged account types are subject to maximums set by the Internal Revenue Service. You can find these under the HSA and FSA tabs on
    • You can adjust your contribution to your HSA at any time throughout the year, but your chosen contribution to an FSA is set at the beginning of the plan year and divided equally over the 12-month period. Unspent HSA funds stay with you through retirement, even as you change jobs; FSA funds must be spent within a specified timeframe.
  • When it comes to the tax-advantaged accounts mentioned above, consult your tax advisor. They know your situation and can advise you as to the best scenario that considers premiums, expenses and tax savings based on pre-tax contributions to these accounts.
  • You can explore related topics on our website, including differences between HSAs and FSAs, the "triple tax savings” HSAs offer and the reasons you have to turn in receipts for FSA expenses.


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