Aon Hewitt Provides Open Enrollment Tips For Workers

U.S. employees soon will be asked to make decisions about their 2013 benefits during open enrollment season. According to Aon Hewitt, the benefits offered to employees next year may be impacted by a number of factors, including rising health care costs, the declining health of the population, and phase-in of provisions under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Aon Hewitt noted that 55 percent of employees default to their current benefit coverage for the coming year, instead of actively reassessing their plan options. Employers should remind workers that the old selection may not be the best option.

Data from Aon Hewitt shows health care costs are expected to rise 6.3 percent in 2013 to $11,188 per employee, compared to $10,522 in 2012. In most cases, employers still shoulder much of the cost, but workers should expect to see their portion of the total cost rise in the form of increased premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The amount employees will pay for their health care benefits in 2013 is expected to be close to $5,000—$2,385 in premiums and another $2,449 in out-of-pocket costs.

“It is easy to fall back on the status quo and assume that your 2012 benefits choices will continue to meet your needs in 2013,” said Craig Rosenberg, Aon Hewitt’s national leader for health and welfare benefits administration. “But changes to family health care needs, employer plan offerings and costs make it important for workers to reevaluate their selections every year.”

Aon Hewitt offers the following tips for this open enrollment season:

Understand what’s changing. Employees should start by evaluating how they used health care in 2012. For example, it is important to consider how much was spent out-of-pocket on deductibles and coinsurance, the number of doctor visits and the cost of ongoing medications. In addition, employees should carefully review information about the 2013 benefit plan offerings. According to Aon Hewitt, more employers are offering consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) than health maintenance organization (HMO) options. As a result, plan options offered in the past may no longer be available. Also new this year under the ACA, employees will have access to Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) statements that provide a standardized overview of health plan coverage features, such as coinsurance, deductibles, and examples of out-of-pocket costs related to having a child and managing Type 2 diabetes. For workers at most large employers that provide decision support tools, SBCs will serve primarily as a supplement. For those employees at smaller companies, SBCs may provide new information that will be helpful in selecting coverage for 2013.

Take advantage of wellness programs. Employers continue to offer tools to help employees, and increasingly, their spouses and partners, better understand their health risks. According to a recent Aon Hewitt survey, 68 percent offer health risk questionnaires (HRQs) and 57 percent offer biometric screenings such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose. Recognizing the importance of these programs, many companies offer incentives to participate. In fact, 84 percent of employers that offer HRQs provide incentives for completing them. Often, these incentives are monetary, like a reduction in medical premium cost, but they also can take the form of a reduction to the plan deductible so the plan starts paying benefits sooner. Workers are advised to take full advantage of all health and wellness programs available.

Consider a CDHP. CDHPs continue to rise in popularity as another way to encourage employees to take an active part in managing their health care. Employers typically pair CDHPs with either a health reimbursement arrangement or a health savings account . Employees can use one of these accounts to help pay for eligible out-of-pocket health care costs, controlling how and when they use these funds. CDHPs may be available at a lower cost than other coverage. However, it is important to consider how much will be spend out of pocket.

Assess dependent coverage. Finally, Aon Hewitt recommends that employees consider which dependents will need to be covered in 2013. The ACA allows employees to cover children through the month in which they reach age 26. It is important to consider all available coverage options for dependents. If a spouse or partner has access to medical coverage through an employer, it may be more cost effective to enroll in that coverage instead, particularly since some companies apply a surcharge to cover a spouse or partner who has declined coverage from their own employer.

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