In the midst of COVID-19, knowing employee health and insurance benefits is more crucial than ever

According to new research Voya Employee Benefits, to help protect their families during these times of uncertainty, more than 70% of American workers plan to spend more time reviewing workplace benefits before enrollment open this fall and more. half (53%) plan to make changes.

In light of this information, consider updating your “to-do” list this fall to include a closer look at the benefits of your workplace. Here are some tips to help you rethink and re-evaluate the potentially untapped benefits your employer offers so you are ready when your open enrollment begins:

1. Don’t procrastinate: Industry research shows employees only take 17 minutes to choose their benefits, while Netflix users spend an average of 18 minutes deciding what to watch. Of course, trying to make sense of all your advantage options during open enrollment is like “cramming a final exam” – that’s a lot of information and can be overwhelming. As a result, many employees simply use last year’s benefit options. However, in the midst of a global pandemic, this isn’t the year to hit the “default button” during open membership. Instead of:

• Check with your employer now to find out how open membership materials will be shared this year and how to get more information once open membership begins.

• With many companies operating with few employees in offices, some may provide trade shows about the benefits of virtual membership and more digital support (eg webinars, video on demand, Zoom calls, etc.).

• If your employer has not yet provided the details, start now by checking your company benefits materials from last year to learn about the options that may be available in 2021.

2. Information on additional or voluntary workplace benefits: Typically, when employees prepare for open enrollment, they spend most of their time focused on the main benefits in the workplace: doctors; dental and vision. While important, Voya’s customer data shows that more than 4 in 10 pension plan participants (44%) have protection or insurance gaps in their coverage.

As a result, this could put you in a difficult financial situation if you get hit with an unexpected medical expense. For example, the average cost of a hospital day in the United States is about $ 2,400, with an average patient staying more than four days. Voluntary benefits, or supplemental health benefits, offered through your employer can provide additional protection, and typically at a lower cost than most people might expect. For example:

• Hospital Benefit Insurance, which pays a daily allowance when you have a covered stay in a hospital, can also be used for childcare, grocery shopping, or home help.

• Critical Illness Insurance pays a subsidy to help you get your life back on track after a stroke, heart attack or other covered illness.

• Accident insurance, which covers an accidental injury such as a broken bone, concussion or deep cut, typically costs less than an 8-pack of sparkling water a week. The allowance payment can be used on anything you need, like paying a utility bill or filling your car with gas.

3. HSAs can help pay for unplanned medical bills: A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a medical savings account available to employees when they are enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). HSAs are funded by pre-tax dollars that are deposited into your account by you or your employer, usually through a salary deduction.

Unlike Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), HSAs are not “use or lose” accounts and your balance is carried over annually. Also, unlike your health insurance plan and FSA, which are generally tied to your employment, your HSA is portable, which means you own the account. Therefore, if you are fired or laid off from your job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can continue to use your HSA funds to help pay for qualified medical bills. And when you sign up for an HSA, some employers will provide funds to your account as well.

Additionally, HSAs offer triple tax benefits:

• Contributions are gross of taxes and reduce taxable income;

• Your HSA funds grow tax-free; is

• When used to pay for eligible medical bills, HSA withdrawals are tax free.

Therefore, if your employer offers an HDHP, don’t overlook the benefits of contributing to an HSA, especially as these savings vehicles continue to grow in popularity. According to a new report from Devenir Research, as of June 30, 2020, the number of new HSA accounts has increased by 12% to a total of 29 million HSA accounts in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on the need to be prepared for unforeseen medical costs, and HSAs can be a valuable workplace benefit to protect your family. If you don’t use the funds this year, or even next, your HSA account can be an asset to fund your retirement medical bills.

4. Follow-through will be critical for this enrollment period: If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must be prepared for the unexpected. While it’s encouraging to see more working Americans take positive steps during open enrollments this fall, follow-through will be key. While it ranks first for Americans, if given the option to review workplace benefits versus spending time on a home improvement project or reviewing their cable internet options, new Voya research shows that nearly half (49%) said they would prefer to focus on the latter. And it’s understandable, especially as more and more Americans work from home, want to focus on home improvements over workplace benefits.

That said, the survey also finds that becoming safer financially is the top priority for nearly half of American workers (49%) as life eventually returns to normal – cited more frequently than spending more time with family and friends ( 41%), lead a healthier lifestyle (40%) and travel to a new place (25%). Consequently, a good place to start in helping you achieve your financial well-being goals is to take a closer look at the benefits your employer offers. It may not be the most interesting element to prioritize, but it is of the utmost importance.

Andrew Frend is senior vice president of strategy and product at Voya Employee Benefits.

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