If you are an employee of a school district or municipality in Arizona, the window for open enrollment is fast approaching for you to choose your benefits package for the next plan year.
Many public sector employers operate on a fiscal year, running from July 1 through June 30. However, the open enrollment period is typically held in the spring and only stays open for two to four weeks, maybe longer, depending on your employer. It’s important for everyone to be made aware of this process since this open enrollment period is your once-a-year one-time opportunity to make new benefit elections, change your current benefit elections, as well as add or remove dependents from any or all of your benefits.
The benefits decisions you make during this period will remain in effect for 12 months, until the next year’s open enrollment period. The only exception to this rule is a “qualifying event” which includes losing coverage elsewhere, getting legally married or divorced, having a baby, or legally adopting. If you have a qualifying event, you should notify your HR team ASAP. You will have 31 days after the qualifying event date to enroll in new or replacement coverage or drop coverage as needed.
It’s difficult to predict the future when it comes to our physical and financial health needs, especially coming off of a year like 2020. The challenge of understanding the benefits that help protect both you and your family can be daunting. However, the good news is that we’re all in this together! Employers want employees to feel safe, protected, educated, and empowered when it comes to their health and well-being.
As a leader in benefits consulting for schools and public sector groups, we thought it would be helpful to share some strategies for employees as we approach this next open enrollment period. With the right information and advice, you can ensure that you are prepared to make important benefits decisions during this critical time.
Take Advantage of Benefits-Related Educational Resources
The biggest asset you can bring to open enrollment is being educated about your options. It is important to take advantage of any benefits-related informational sessions, webinars, and/or one-on-one meeting times available through your employer to ensure you’re choosing the right coverage for you, your family, and your budget.
Your employer plays a crucial role in this process. They want you to understand the benefits they offer and to help you protect what matters most. Savvy employers know that “benefit happy” employees want to stay with your organization over the long-term. It’s a win-win!
Consider All Benefit Options
While medical insurance is a necessity that most people understand they need, many times employees don’t realize that standard medical coverage doesn’t cover everything. It only pays doctors, hospitals, providers, and facilities.
Deductibles, co-pays, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses due to an unforeseen illness, accident, or injury (including childbirth and maternity) can mount quickly. For example, the average hospital stay of 4.5 days can tally an expense of nearly $12,000.
Voluntary or ancillary benefits such as accident, hospital, short-term disability, and critical illness are benefits that “fill the gap” by providing financial support for expenses that medical insurance doesn’t cover. You should consider these benefits as another necessity, depending on your health, budget, and other circumstances.
Your Family Lifeline
Having adequate life insurance is also important to ensure the financial well-being of your loved ones should a tragedy occur. According to Investopedia, a common life insurance need calculation is “multiply your annual salary by the number of years left until retirement.” For example, if a 40-year-old woman currently makes $40,000 a year, she will need up to $1 million (25 years x $40,000) in life insurance.
Some considerations to better gauge what amount of life insurance is right for you: Are you the primary financial provider for the family? Do you have dependents (spouse, children)? What is your current financial picture (debt and other obligations)? Take these questions/answers into consideration when determining the right amount of life insurance for you and your family.
Self Care is Vital
After a woeful 2020 … stress, anxiety, and uncertainty could have created significant physical, mental, and behavioral challenges for you or your family. Challenges can include insomnia, depression, as well as drug and alcohol abuse, just to name a few. Taking care of your physical and mental health should always be a top priority. Picking coverage that addresses preventative self-care is important for everyone.
It’s a good idea to work with your benefits team to identify resources within your benefits package such as counseling or wellness activities that reduce stress and lessen anxiety. A little self-care can go a long way to helping you and your family be healthy and happy, and to making you a better, more productive employee.
Workplace Safety & Protocols
The COVID-19 pandemic has made health and safety in the workplace a key consideration and need for the right benefits plan.
Again, being armed with the right approach and mindset can be your best asset. Common sense applies here: If there is a group meeting during your open enrollment period, ensure that you are protecting yourself and your co-workers by maintaining proper social distancing.
Also, be sure you have the proper sick leave time in place in the event you (or a loved one) contracts the virus and need serious medical attention. Also, be sure to follow established health and safety protocols before and after you and your co-workers are vaccinated.
Trust Your Advisors
Employee benefits can be complicated, to say the least. Benefit advisors play a critical role in ensuring employees have access to the right plans at the right cost. They understand how they work, and more importantly, how they work together. Trust their guidance to help you select the right benefits for you.
It’s never been more important for you to make certain that your benefits and budget needs are properly aligned. If you are eligible for benefits through your employer, this is a crucial time. Be sure to take the time needed to educate yourself on your options.
Your Open Enrollment Confidant
Valley Schools is a leading nonprofit employee benefits consultant for Arizona public school districts and government agencies. We specialize in employee health benefits, plan administration, benefits education, benefits consulting, wellness, and more. See how we can support your organization with better advice and better benefits. Reach out today!