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Time to sign up for medical insurance? Don't make these common mistakes Posted: November 21st, 2011

By Beth Orenstein

More than three out of four employees say they make costly mistakes when they have to choose from among the health care plans their employer offers them. That's according to a recent survey of American workers commissioned by Aflac.

Here are some of the most common mistakes employees make when choosing health insurance plans during their annual open enrollment period – and how to avoid them.

  • Not taking the task seriously. Many companies schedule their open enrollment period at the end of the year, when everyone is busy and the holidays are fast approaching. Don't ignore the open enrollment guide, even if your medical insurance works fine for you and year-to-year changes tend to be minor. Reading the guide cover to cover reduces the chances of nasty surprises when you need medical care during the year.
  • Not asking questions. Ask questions of your human resources department if you find something in the guide is unclear, or if you have a question about a likely scenario that's not covered. If you assume the answer, you could be wrong, and that visit to the doctor or emergency room could cost you more than you realized.
  • Not looking for changes in coverage. You may choose the same plan you have now. But that doesn't mean your doctors are still part of it, or that the drugs you take will continue to be covered. It's best to double-check.
  • Not setting aside money in an FSA. With a flexible spending account, you can set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as co-pays, deductibles and the cost of elective procedures. The only caveat is that you must use the money by the end of the plan year or you will lose it. Do the math and figure out how much you're likely to spend in the upcoming year for these expenses. Put at least that amount in an FSA if your employer offers one.
  • Not taking advantage of your options. Some employers offer optional health insurance coverages that can give you peace of mind. The Aflac survey found that in this poor economy, many people are concerned about unexpected medical expenses. Just don't take any supplemental health insurance plans (such as cancer coverage or accident coverage) that duplicate what you already have.