Small Business Health Insurance Consumers Must Prepare For Major Changes This Benefit Enrollment  
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Consumers - Major Changes This Benefit Enrollment


Consumers Must Prepare For Major Changes This Benefit Enrollment
Hewitt Associates Offers Employees Tips on Making Wise Benefit Selections

September 2004 (Newstream) - In light of continued double-digit health care cost increases, this year's open enrollment season will bring an unprecedented level of change and decisions for employees. Global human resources services firm Hewitt Associates, which administers benefits for more than 18 million employees and their families, offers these tips to help consumers understand upcoming changes and get the greatest return for their benefits dollars.

"This year, employees may feel overwhelmed by how many complex choices they have to make, but it's important that they take action," said Jennifer Murphy, health care communication leader, Hewitt Associates. "If they take the time to look at their choices and use the many tools and rich content employers are making available, there's a real opportunity to tailor their benefits to meet their specific health and financial needs."

Expect sticker shock. Because health care costs have risen so dramatically over the past several years, many people can expect to see a percentage of this increase passed on to them in terms of higher copays, coinsurance, deductibles, etc. Be prepared.

Start early. Enrollment may not be as easy this year as it has been in the past, so you should allow enough time to gather information and educate yourself on the decisions you need to make. Don't wait until the last minute.

Take inventory. To determine the health care coverage that will work best for you, you'll need to know how much you've spent on health care in the past year and how those expenses were distributed, and really think through anticipated expenses for next year. Many companies offer online medical expense estimators and records of last year's claims that can help you with this.

Don't assume last year's choices will work. Many employers have implemented major plan design changes in light of rising costs. Your old plan may no longer exist, and new and better options may be available. Also, many employers who formerly allowed employees to default into their previous year's selections are now requiring active enrollment.

Explore health accounts. Employers are offering many different types of accounts (such as Health Savings Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements and Flexible Spending Accounts) to help you pay health care expenses on a tax-advantaged basis. Make sure you know your options and how these accounts work to help offset health care costs. (NOTE: Please see attached comparison chart.)

Avoid the urge to overinsure. Despite the high cost of health care, many employees continue to opt for coverage far in excess of what they actually need. Absorbing a little more risk can have a positive impact on your take-home pay.

Use open enrollment as an excuse for a complete financial checkup. Take advantage of enrollment to review your total retirement and financial situation. Look closely at your life insurance, dependent care and retirement needs, and be sure you're using all of the tools and information out there to help with these choices.

Remember you're not in it alone. Employers are providing a wealth of tools to help, so make sure you know what's available to you. Tools like medical expense trackers and estimators, health plan comparison charts and spending account projectors can help you decide which coverage is right for you and how to pay for it.

Don't stop at enrollment. Selecting your benefits is only half the issue. Many employers offer tools that help with using your benefits more effectively throughout the year. Be sure to take advantage of provider quality and cost data, health management information and wellness initiatives to keep you healthy and maximize the value of your health care investment.

About Hewitt
With more than 60 years of experience, Hewitt Associates (NYSE: HEW) is the world's foremost provider of human resources outsourcing and consulting services. The firm consults with more than 2,300 companies and administers human resources, health care, payroll and retirement programs on behalf of more than 300 companies to millions of employees and retirees worldwide. For more information, please visit: .


Produced For Hewitt Associates


JoAnne Laffey, (847) 442-7648,

Suzanne Zagata-Meraz, (847) 442-7657,




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