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What to Know this Benefit Open Enrollment Season

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Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Thu Oct 31, 2013.

(StatePoint) The end of the year is benefit open enrollment season for most Americans -- your annual opportunity to change, elect, or renew benefit coverage offered through your employer for the upcoming year.

With the cost of health care continuing to rise, health care reform is changing the insurance landscape and often the benefits employers provide. And with these changes, consumers face added costs and new decision-making responsibilities. In fact, in addition to healthcare decisions, four-fifths of employers have already adopted voluntary benefits to provide employees with new nonmedical benefit choices, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

“Employers once selected and paid for a specific set of nonmedical benefits for their employees, such as short-term and long-term disability, dental, and term life insurance,” says Rob Grubka, president, Group Protection at Lincoln Financial Group. “Today, that’s changing; decisions and funding of healthcare and many nonmedical benefits are now in the hands of the employees themselves.”

If you’re a bit confused by the details, here are some simple things to consider when choosing your benefits:

• Health insurance coverage is certainly a valuable benefit, but don’t overlook how other important benefits – such as dental care, vision coverage, disability insurance, life insurance and critical illness insurance – also play a big role in protecting your financial future.

Even if your employer doesn`t contribute toward the premium cost, these can be more cost effective and you may be able to conveniently pay premiums via pre-tax payroll deduction if you purchase them at work. You’ll likely need more protection than just medical, and the majority of employers do sponsor other options. So review your enrollment materials to determine what’s being offered.

• Figure out your biggest risks today and make protecting them a priority. If you’re healthy, single, and relatively young, you have different needs than someone who is married with three kids in high school.

• A lot of companies and benefits providers have tools, videos and even games on their websites to help make understanding benefits easy.  For example, www.LincolnforLiving.com, an innovative free website, features a wide array of tools and resources to help you make smarter decisions about protecting your future based on your lifestyle.

• Every year you should consider your life changes and re-evaluate your needs. Whether you’re about to walk down the aisle, expand your family, or buy your first home, protecting your assets with the right kinds and amounts of insurance coverage is key.

• With a voluntary benefits program, you get an opportunity to purchase specific benefits. But there are a lot of details so take advantage of benefit educational webinars, one-on-one meetings or group meetings provided through your employer. 

It's the important things in life that are worth protecting. Insurance benefits offered in your workplace play a role in how you plan for that protection. Be sure to make informed choices this open enrollment season.

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