Choosing the right benefits during open-enrollment season is so important and can help save money. It can also give individuals and families broader support with their health. Benefits like medical coverage are particularly important with high inflation having such a big impact on people’s budgets.
A survey by UnitedHealthcare found that nearly 40% of employees devote less than one hour to the open enrollment process. It is crucial to carefully analyze your benefits during open enrollment as any decisions you make will likely be locked for the year until the next open enrollment period. Don’t rush into open enrollment without carefully considering your options!
Here are some tips to ensure you make the most of your open enrollment:
Open enrollment typically lasts for a short period (2-4 weeks) so knowing what you need to do ahead of time can be a big stress reliever. A good starting point is to consider how your needs have changed since last year. For example, maybe you got married or received a raise. These changes may require a change in coverage, whether it be for life, health or disability insurance, and it is important to consider how these or any other expected life changes will impact your insurance needs.
Review Any Changes Made by Your Employer
It is common for employers make changes to plans and premiums to keep up with the times. When you receive your open enrollment packet to review plan options, it is important to consider all aspects of coverage and the total cost of coverage. The total cost is impacted by the deductibles, premiums, co-insurance and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.
Take note of whether your employer made any changes in providers. If this happens, your current physician or dentist may be out-of-network which will result in out-of-network costs or denied claims.
Review Your Insurance Options
The largest portion of employer benefits is health insurance so it is important to choose the plan that is best for you and your family. Important questions to ask are: how often do you have medical expenses? Are lower premiums or lower out-of-pocket costs more important to you? Do you take expensive prescription drugs? Can you afford hefty out-of-pocket costs if there is an emergency?
There are 3 main plan types:
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
PPO’s are a popular choice since they allow you to see any doctor or specialist and don’t require a referral from your primary care physician (PCP) to see a specialist. However, PPO premiums are usually much more than other plans. To help reduce costs, remember that using in-network providers and specialists who are part of your PPO network will save you money.
- Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
HMOs have lower premiums than PPOs but they require you to stay in-network. You will also need a referral from your PCP to see a specialist. The idea is that the PCP coordinates your care.
- High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
Another low-cost option is a high-deductible health plan. What sets HDHPs apart from other plans is their low premiums and high deductibles. That means you won’t have to pay as much each month for premiums but you will need to pay more of the healthcare costs when you need services. To help you pay for the bigger deductible, employers usually pair an HDHP with a health savings account (HSA), which allows you to save for medical expenses, including deductibles and copays.
Learn How FSAs, HRAs, and HSAs Differ
Many employers offer accounts that help you save for medical expenses:
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
You decide how much pre-tax money to put into the employer owned account through payroll deductions and then you can use that money to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. You lose that money if you change jobs or don’t use it by the end of the year.
- Health Savings Account (HSA)
Connected to a HDHP, an HSA lets you set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. The account is yours, so you keep it if you change jobs. The money rolls over each year so you don’t have to worry about “using it or losing it.”
- Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA)
An HRA is similar to an HSA except that the employer owns the account so you can’t take it with you when you change jobs. You’re able to contribute money for medical expenses just like an HSA or FSA. Money can also be carried over to the next year like an HSA.
Open enrollment is an important time of year and is worth investing some time and energy to decide what is best for you and your family. Health insurance is one of the most important purchases you make. By doing your homework and taking the time to carefully consider your options, you’ll find the plan that is right for you!
According to most retirement savings statistics, saving for retirement is something a lot of people put on the backburner. Until it is too late, that is.
For some people, the reason is that they are simply living paycheck to paycheck, so there isn’t much left to put aside. Others have some leftover money after covering the monthly expenses but aren’t sure how much they need to put in their retirement fund. Retirement is expensive and you need to know how much money you will need each year.
Most experts say your retirement income should be about 80% of your final pre-retirement annual income. That means if you make $100,000 annually at retirement, you need at least $80,000 per year to have a comfortable lifestyle after leaving the workforce.Facts:
- Only half of Americans have calculated how much they need to save for retirement.
- In 2020, more than a quarter of private industry workers with access to a defined contribution plan (such as a 401(k) plan) did not participate.
- The average American spends roughly 20 years in retirement.
Remember…Savings Matters! Here are 6 Ways to Save for Retirement:
1 – Focus on Starting Today – Start saving as much as you can now and let compound interest – the ability of your assets to generate earnings, which are reinvested to generate their own earnings – have an opportunity to work for you. Develop a plan and stick to it.
2 – Take Advantage of Your Employer’s 401(k) plan – Try to save at least 10-15% of your pay in a tax-advantaged retirement account, such as a 401(k). Make sure to increase your contribution or at least set up an auto-escalation so that you put in more each year.
3 – Meet Your Employer’s Match – If you employer offers to match your 401(k) contributions, make sure you contribute enough to take full advantage of the match. For example, an employer may offer to match 50% of employee contributions up to 5% of your salary. That means that if you earn “$50,000 per year and contribute $2,500 to your retirement plan, your employer would add another $1,250. It is essentially free money! Don’t leave it on the table.
4 – Invest in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) – There are two IRA options: a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. The taxes from your contributions and withdrawals are different with these two types of IRA’s so be sure to choose the type that is right for you.
5 – Take Advantage of Catch-Up Contributions – Turning 50 years old has some advantages, including being able to contribute more to your retirement account with catch-up contributions. In 2022, you can add an extra $6,500 per year in catch-up contributions, bringing your total 401(k) contributions to $27,000. For either a traditional or a Roth IRA, the annual catch-up amount is $1,000 which boosts your total contribution to $7,000.
6 – Find Out About Your Social Security Benefits – Social Security retirement benefits replace 40% of pre-retirement income for retirement beneficiaries. You can estimate your benefit by using the retirement estimator on the Social Security Administration’s website.
Debra Greenberg, Director of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions for Bank of America said, “Recognizing the need to put money away for retirement is the first step.” Understanding how much you want to save and setting goals to achieve your financial goals is vital. Starting too late and saving too little is a common regret among retirees. Making the effort now can help you look forward to your golden years.
Even with these tips, you’ll need more information. Talk to your bank or financial advisor to get practical advice to start saving today!
“Financial Wellness” is getting a lot of buzz these days — and for good reason! After all, today’s workforce is overwhelmed by mounting student debt and other rising expenses.
Financial wellness refers to a person’s overall financial health and is one of many factors that makes up employee wellbeing. We often think of wellbeing as related to physical and mental health, but financial stress impacts a person’s health as well. When employees are stressed about their financial situation it effects their productivity, attendance and engagement in the workplace.
Organizations are continually looking for ways to stay competitive and have an advantage in attracting and retaining qualified employees. With the current economic conditions, people are looking for jobs that offer more than just paid time off and health insurance. Therefore, many businesses have turned their focus to employee financial wellness programs to add value to their compensation packages. More than 51% of organizations offer financial wellness initiatives and 29% of companies are interested in launching financial wellness programs. Offered as a voluntary benefit, financial wellness programs send employees a valuable message, letting them know their company cares about them and is ready to extend a helping hand to those in need.
The goal of implementing a financial wellness program is to support and improve the financial health of employees by providing tools and resources to help them manage their current finances, protect against unforeseen financial hardships, and plan for a financially secure future.
Let’s take a look at some of the financial wellness solutions available:
- Educational Programs – An education-focused program that equips employees with the information they need to plan for emergencies using current employer benefits. Financial guidance sessions and financial education workshops are available via live chat that teach employees about budgeting, credit scores, retirement savings and savings accounts.
- Employer Matching Programs – A matching program involves an employer matching a certain percentage of contributions that employees make to their 401k, student loan repayment or a 529 (college savings) fund.
- Financial Assistance Programs – These programs focus on alternative stressors employees might not have considered as a factor in their financial health. These include medical bill zero-interest financing, medical bill negotiation, relocation assistance and stock options.
- Insurance Options – Employers can consider including alternative insurance programs such as long-term care insurance, pet insurance, adoption and fertility insurance, accident insurance, critical illness insurance, and life and disability insurance.
Over the past year, employee financial distress has intensified, which means it’s the perfect opportunity to bring financial education into your workplace. It won’t be easy. Reducing financial stress and improving financial health for your employees takes a comprehensive plan, but it will be worth the investment. Your commitment to prioritizing financial health will help improve the lives of your employees. Financially healthy employees are healthier and happier; they are better for the company’s bottom line.
Inflation is a silent budget killer- it causes everything to go up, from your groceries to your gas, as the purchasing power of money decreases. Americans are feeling the pinch as the U.S. experiences the highest inflation level in 40 years.
Inflation has been particularly frustrating for Americans who are struggling to pay for items such as housing, food, energy, and vehicles. However, consumer goods aren’t the only thing that have increased – employee benefit costs are also on the rise. With rising inflation rates, many employers are struggling with rising healthcare costs. A survey of large employers from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 96% of respondents agree that the high costs of offering healthcare to their employees are excessive.
With inflation increasing, you may be tempted to cut benefits packages, but now more than ever, a generous benefits and perks package is crucial to retaining employees. In fact, 63% of companies say that retaining is harder than hiring them. Amidst the Great Resignation, HR is having to figure out how to alleviate the increasing benefit costs without passing those costs on to their employees and facing even greater turnover. Fortunately, there are some strategies that employers can use to remain competitive in today’s market while still providing quality benefits for their employees:
- Foster a Healthy Workforce – The healthier your employees are, the less likely they are to have extensive healthcare costs. Wellness programs are a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle. A cost-effective way to provide wellness benefits while helping employees through periods of high inflation is through a wellness stipend. With a wellness stipend, you reimburse your employees for their wellness costs such as gym memberships, home exercise equipment and wellness apps.
- Encourage the Use of Virtual Medical Services – With telemedicine, employees can schedule an appointment with your health care provider or specialist. They don’t have to drive to the doctor’s office, park or sit in a waiting room. They can see their doctor from the comfort of their bed or sofa which makes it easier to fit into a busy schedule. Telemedicine appointments are usually short visits, so employees can get back to work more quickly.
- Eliminate Benefits that Employees Don’t Use – Take a microscopic look at all the benefits you provide. Do you see any that aren’t being utilized enough to justify the cost of providing them? A great way to learn which of your benefits your employees are and aren’t using is by sending out an employee benefits survey. Your company can then invest the money from underused benefits to something that your employees value more.
While it may be tempting to simply reduce your benefits offerings during periods of inflation, it doesn’t have to be that way. Comprehensive benefits attract better employees and retain them for the long haul—meaning employers benefit from a more productive and satisfied workforce.
All too often, illness or injury appears out of the blue: You wake up in the middle of the night with intense abdominal pain. You stumble while carrying groceries up a flight of stairs and can no longer put weight on your swollen ankle. Or your baby spikes a high fever on the weekend.
These situations are stressful and it’s hard to think when you’re under stress. But you need to decide where to go to get medical care for yourself or a loved one. Understanding the levels of acute medical care before you need it can help you focus and get the appropriate help quickly.
Urgent care centers and emergency rooms are both great options for times when you are unable to see your primary care physician (PCP). The reasons for choosing these facilities can be because the injury or sickness has occurred outside normal office hours for your doctor or that you are out of town when an emergency hits. As you know, the first choice for non-life or limb-threatening conditions should be your regular doctor—they will have your medical history on file and your medication list at the ready. When this is not an option, you will need to make the choice on what level of care you need.
Urgent Care Centers
Urgent care centers fill the gap between when you are sick or minorly injured but cannot see your PCP and when you can’t wait for an appointment. Most urgent care locations are staffed by doctors or physician’s assistants. These centers can get you in and out quickly and some even take appointments. Since you will not see your PCP at these clinics, it’s always best to bring a copy of all the medications and dosages of meds you take. If you have a special condition, like epilepsy, make sure you disclose that to the urgent care provider you see. Most have access to x-ray machines and basic diagnostic tests. The typical range of costs for care at these centers is between $150-$200.
Here are some conditions that typically can be seen at urgent care centers:
- Fevers, flu or cold symptoms
- Ear infections
- Smaller cuts that may require stitches
- Urinary tract infections
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Emergency Room Care
Hospital emergency rooms provide care for life and limb-threatening situations ranging from heart attack and stroke to car accident injuries. Staffed by physicians, nurses, and specialists, emergency rooms have access to highly knowledgeable and diverse medical teams. In emergency rooms, care is given to the most serious injury/illness first—not on a first-come, first-served basis. Because of this, wait times in emergency rooms are widely varied and may be into a several hours-long wait. Again, it is wise to bring a list of any medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, with you when seeking care since the ER will not have this information from your PCP. The average cost of an emergency room visit costs $2,200 according to UnitedHealthcare.
Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room include:
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- Weakness/numbness on one side
- Serious burns
- Head or eye injury
- Broken bones and dislocated joints
- Severe cuts that may require stitches
- Pregnancy Complications
- Any condition that you think may need surgery or a stay in the hospital
When faced with the decision to visit an urgent care center or emergency room, you have to first evaluate your symptoms. Once you have done this, ask yourself this question, “Does this condition have the possibility of permanently impairing or endangering your life?” If the answer is “yes,” then you have an emergency and should proceed to the nearest hospital ER. If the answer is “no,” then head over to your local urgent care center. You will save yourself time and money by making a good choice on your care.
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Dixon Associates’ new homepage showcases a unique, animated video banner of beautiful Duxbury Bay in Massachusetts, where they are just steps away from the water! When venturing over to their “Our Team” page, the viewer can learn about the Core Values of this benefits company and then click on a gorgeous picture of a team member, and a personalized pop-up bio box appears. Also, featured prominently at the top of each page, is a unique navigation bar that highlights their affiliation with NextGen Benefits Network.
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Contact the eTekhnos team to learn how we can partner with you for custom website design, SEO optimization, email marketing, and social media solutions!