Open enrollment is wrapping up for many people, and few will be sorry – including me.
It’s easy to understand the frustration shared by so many people when faced with making their benefits selections. It’s hard to estimate our true risks and likely utilization for the coming year. And even using good decision-support tools, it’s easy to get sucked into old ways of thinking.
In years past, as I compared my plan choices, I found – much to my chagrin – that I typically chose the same plan we had the previous year. Despite my careful analysis and evaluation of our options, it was hard to think about making a change from a plan that was familiar and so far had worked out okay for us, even if it was more expensive than our other options.
The pressure was a little greater this year,because the stakes are higher. Even though my husband’s company has historically provided generous benefits, like other companies they are experiencing increasing costs, and we are feeling that in the form of higher premiums and deductibles being passed on to us.
Given that our health insurance costs are likely to take an even bigger bite out of our budget next year, I pushed myself to think differently about our decision this year. I focused on looking at our plan options from a broader perspective of our total financial risk, instead of the individual plan characteristics like what our copay is for a doctor’s visit.
After looking hard at the numbers (which helped me to let go of my curiously emotional attachment to our previous plan), I made the switch to the less expensive, higher-deductible plan. By focusing on the broader financial picture, I realized that we could potentially save a significant chunk of money on our premium costs, especially over the longer haul.
It wasn’t easy to overcome the biases that caused me to stick with the same plan in the past. Even as I focused on the numbers, I noticed the nagging internal voices saying “But I like my $20 copay;” but I also realized those were distracting me from the bigger picture. Open enrollment gets a little easier when we recognize potential pitfalls of old habits and focus on some new ways of thinking and making decisions.