Quick Fix: Tips on open enrollment season

Markets Associated Press

Fall is here, and that means falling leaves, pumpkin-flavored everything and open enrollment period for health plans at work.

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While insurance forms may not be as warming for the soul as cider, open enrollment is a great time to reassess your benefits to make sure you are best set up for the year ahead.

Here are a few expert tips to consider:

DON'T WAIT: You may be receiving information now, even though decision time may not be later this year. Take the time to review the materials, rather than make a last-minute decision, said Todd Katz, executive vice president of group, voluntary and worksite benefits at MetLife.

Nearly half of employees say they felt stressed by the enrollment process, according to MetLife's Employee Benefit Trends Study.

"It doesn't need to be stressful," Katz said. "We surmise that has to do with the fact that they have to make decisions, and they don't feel educated. That information is there. Go find it, use it and your stress level will go down."

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THINK TWICE: Resist the temptation to just take the same benefits that you did last year, Katz said.

Your life may have changed, such as a marriage, birth of a child or new medical condition. Meanwhile, your plan's choices and costs have likely changed too. Employers have been adding more high-deductible plans, dropping spousal coverage and making other changes in recent years.

Employers are also providing information in more ways than ever — email, text, online and even in one-on-one meetings. Check to see what has changed since last year before making your decision.

ESTIMATE COSTS: Consider you coverage last year. Was it enough? Now, think about your potential medical costs for the coming year. Do you foresee frequent doctor visits? Do you have young children? Many prescriptions?

Understanding your current and future costs will help you to choose a plan that's right for you

Annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased an average of 3 percent to $18,142 this year, according to survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. Workers, on average, contribute $5,277 annually toward their family premiums.