Making My Open Enrollment Choice

Last updated: August 2017

'Tis the season, for email or letters from Human Resources or Insurance Companies. Perhaps almost nothing is changing for your insurance in 2017, or maybe everything is. It's certainly an overwhelming time of year to try to figure out what will work best for your next calendar year. I celebrated National Spreadsheet Day (October 17) by opening up my benefits selection booklet, and firing up the computer to take a stab at what the optimal plan is for me. As many spreadsheets and numbers as I try to put together to figure it all out ultimately I'm making assumptions and hoping for the best. I am grateful to be covered by comprehensive insurance through my employer. Even if I picked my plan by throwing darts at the benefits book I don't feel like there is a genuinely terrible option to hit.

I make my decision by looking at what kinds of care I had in the previous year, and how much it cost. Some years I carefully comb over old receipts and claims online, while other years I just use round numbers off the top of my head. I then plug these numbers into the benefits options I'm offered and see how much the same care would cost me under the different plan options I have. I add the annual premium cost to this and see what I should expect my total cost of care to be. This is a nice number to have when I try to put together a household budget. I look it as the minimum amount I expect to spend on healthcare. You never know what the year will bring. This year we switched me to a cheaper maintenance inhaler. Those savings were wiped out getting stitches when I split my chin open. I try to find balance between thoroughly analyzing my options and remembering that life takes unexpected turns.

Each person has different things they look for when access health care. While I value my local pharmacist and being able to swing by on the way home from work I understand that mail order may be cheaper. I take into consideration if my meds will come at different cost tiers between plans. I also look at what doctors, labs, hospitals, and other providers are available to me. For me looking at the quality of care is very important, I want to have good health outcomes. I am certainly cost conscious as well. If after looking at cost and benefit data I still don't have a clear front runner health plan to pick I look at the "hit by a bus" scenario. (Don't worry I think we have safe transit drivers and I carefully cross streets after looking both ways.) It can be a helpful to take the pessimistic look at what it would cost me if I had some catastrophic medical situation next year. All other things being equal I will pick the plan that costs me the least if I were to need an atypically large amount of medical care. How do you approach open enrollment? Do you prefer to throw paper airplanes or darts instead of breaking out spreadsheets?

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