Fall is a very special time of year for our little family. All of our big milestones have happened in the Fall (our first meeting, our first date, our first kiss, our first photo together, our first holiday, each of our moves, etc). It seems like everything significant in our lives happens between September and November. This Fall we made the commitment to adopt a child and we couldn’t be any more excited about the addition to our little family. Lately, we’ve been thinking about all of the ways adding a child is going to change our lives. In addition to a new schedule to incorporate into our already busy days, we have to think about guardianship, estate planning, and additional insurance options for our family.
It can feel overwhelming but we know it’s important to make smart choices for our family. That’s why, this year, we’re taking advantage of Aflac’s open enrollment period and talking to them about their voluntary insurance programs.
Our wedding day was the happiest day of my life but I was also terrified. My husband was deathly ill at the time and I was scared that he wouldn’t survive longer than a few weeks after our wedding. Every morning, before I opened my eyes, I would whisper a little prayer that he was still breathing next to me. It was the most joyous and the most depressing time of my life.
It was a struggle as well. My husband was bound to bed about 80% of the time, he was unable to work, he had lost at least 50 pounds, and we were overwhelmed with medical bills. At one point he had 40+ doctor’s appointments in 30 days. It was hard, as I’m sure you can imagine. Our saving grace during that time was that I had a great job with amazing benefits although I had major regrets about not having signed up for any voluntary benefits, such as the ones Aflac offers. They could have really saved us.
When we got back on our feet after his life-saving surgery a few months after our wedding I was determined to do everything I could to protect ourselves as much as possible going forward. I immediately met with the HR department at work to go over the employer-sponsored benefits they offered and evaluate my health insurance policy. Most companies in the U.S. offer open enrollment during the Fall so if you need to make any changes, now is probably the time to do it.
We had opted for the plan that offered the best possible coverage because my husband was going to so many appointments. Speaking with an expert in the field is extremely important because a thorough understanding of benefit options is the key to avoid leaving money on the table. High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) are plans that have a deductible of $1,000 or more and they are increasing in popularity but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you. In fact, it probably isn’t.
Last year, more than half (60%) of millennials that selected a major medical/health insurance plan selected one with a high deductible of $1,000 (Aflac Open Enrollment Survey, 2016). That’s up from 48% who said the same in 2015 and a lot of those millennials admitted they had second thoughts stating they regret choosing a HDHP and felt it was financially detrimental for themselves and/or their family.
You may feel like it’s your only option (according to the 2016 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey, 68% of those millennials felt that way) and if that’s the case you may want to encourage your employer to ensure you have other benefits options available. For instance, a health savings account and voluntary insurance can help pay for deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs to give you the freedom to live your life to fullest, instead of being burdened with medical expenses. That’s what saved us the most when we were going through Brandon’s health crisis.Our Health Savings Account (HSA) was such a blessing!
It was a hard lesson learned for us and it’s something I talk about at work with our new young hires all of the time. In fact, I had a conversation with a young college grad at work just last week about whether or not he should opt in for the voluntary coverage. Naturally, I told our story as a warning. A lot of millennials don’t set aside time to review their benefit options with an expert then end up with inadequate health care protection for themselves and their families. I hate watching a friend or family member go through a crisis they could have avoided if only they’d invested the time in being knowledgeable.
It’s scary how many millennials avoid this important conversation. My co-worker said, “It’s intimidating” but I told him that’s only because he doesn’t know anything about it. Once you get educated, it’s less intimidating.
Here are some starting statistics for you…
- According to the 2016 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey, more than half (56%) of millennials say there are aspects they don’t understand about their overall health care policy, including elements like deductibles, copays or in-network providers.
- Even thought a majority of millennials admit they do not understand aspects of their health care policy, 24% admitted the time they spent researching their major medical or health insurance options was too little. In fact, many would rather be doing almost anything else rather than completing their annual benefits enrollment.
- 28% would rather go a day without social media
- 22% would rather eat their least favorite food
- 21% would rather see a movie or concert they know they won’t like
- 17% would rather talk to their ex
- 14% would rather walk across hot coals
- 16% would rather change baby diapers.
- Not taking the time to review benefits options can impact millennials’ ability to maintain their lifestyle. Many millennials are already living paycheck to paycheck. Combine student loan payments with stagnant raises and rising health care costs, millennial employees are walking financial tightropes.
- 70% of millennials estimate that they waste up to $750 because of mistakes they make during open enrollment.
Don’t you see? If you spend more time researching the benefits options available to you, you can help ensure that you’re making the best health care and financial decisions for yourself and your family this open enrollment. Definitely remember to take advantage of the resources available through your employer. Many workplaces offer the option to speak with a benefits expert about your specific needs and provide online portals to compare plans.
Please friends, look in to it. You never know when a major crisis could strike. I had no idea that when Brandon and I were planning our wedding that by our wedding day I may be mere months away from planning his funeral. When he had the surgery that ended up saving his life, the doctor’s didn’t know if he would survive it. They had told me he would be in surgery for 2 hours and it ended up being 6! They took him in to surgery as an exploratory option to try to find out what was wrong with him and ended up finding (and fixing, hooray!) the problem. If they hadn’t, I’d likely be a widow today. You never know when you may find yourselves in a similar situation. Please, be prepared!
Voluntary insurance (which include accident, disability, critical illness, cancer, hospital, and life insurance) is a key component of health care, particularly for millennials in HDHPs or with minimal cash in their savings accounts. Voluntary insurance pays cash when you’re sick or hurt so you can focus on recovery, not financial stress. Trust me, you don’t know what a blessing that is until you need it! When Brandon was sick I had a mini-crisis of my own and without our voluntary insurance we would have been in a serious bind.
Your major medical policies pay your doctors and hospitals, but your voluntary policies pay cash directly to you, unless otherwise assigned, which means you get decide how the cash is used. That means you can pay your electric bill or buy groceries if that’s what you really need to get you through. The 2016 Aflac WorkForces Report found that 65% of employees have less than $1,000 to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with an unexpected serious illness or accident if it occurred today. How would you fare?
Could you pay your bills (without dipping into vacation funds, holiday budgets, or savings) if an illness like Brandon’s struck your family today? Please, protect your family, and look in to your options today. Get more info here.
Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York. Z161128J 10/16
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.