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Employee open enrollment in the COVID 19 era

Employee open enrollment in the COVID 19 era

With a national health crisis looming and the real threat of getting sick, understanding your health insurance benefits could never be of more importance.  We have put together this guide to help employees make good decisions about their coverage during these uncertain times.

What is open enrollment?
Open enrollment is typically a 30 – 60 day window when your employer presents you with benefit options (usually health, dental, vision and life) for the following year’s health plan.  Open enrollment usually takes place between October and December, with new coverage taking effect January 1 of the following year.  This year expect open enrollment to look very different because of COVID 19.   

Why should I care about open enrollment?
Open enrollment is your opportunity to make changes, add or drop dependents or coverage to better align with you and your family’s needs.  This year, your employer may be more concerned about the affordability of health care costs.  They may have increased coverage or expanded the benefit offering to help employees get through the pandemic.  Do not assume you should just stick with the same plan you had last year.  Make the effort to carefully review and even scrutinize over your benefit options. 

  • New or expanded coverage. Look for your coverage to include telemedicine services which is not only safer, but far less expensive than traditional in-person doctor or emergency room treatments. Also, see if your plan includes a new or expended preventative medicine strategy which many medical experts believe is paramount to staying healthy during the COVID 19 Pandemic.

  • Opt-In for voluntary coverage. Do you have additional voluntary or ancillary options such as critical illness that pays a lump sum directly to you?  Do you have an opportunity to add or increase your disability coverage to better provide for your family should you become ill?  Opting for this type of coverage at discounted rates through your employer will cost you a lot less than paying excessive medical bills for even just one occurrence of serious illness or accident.

  • Take advantage of newer, emerging benefits. Along with typical voluntary benefits, your employer may have added new “lifestyle benefits” which are gaining popularity this year such as pet insurance, identity theft or student loan refinancing.

  • Consider a Health Savings Account. If you have a high deductible plan, consider a Health Savings Account to help you pay for medical services with pre-taxed dollars. 

  • Consider adding or increasing your life insurance. Many employers offer a limited amount of life insurance that you should absolutely take advantage of.  However, figuring out exactly how much coverage you may need depends on your total debt and your family’s financial needs.  Your employer may offer an opportunity to buy up or add an additional policy at discounted group rates to wrap around your employer provided coverage. 

Follow your employer’s directions and guidance for open enrollment.  Preparation is key to making good benefit decisions during the pandemic.  As a response to the pandemic, more and more employers are taking their benefits online and are conducting virtual online enrollment.  Take advantage of the smart decision-making tools that most online benefit systems provide – they are mobile friendly and there to help you make smart benefit and financial decisions.

What happens if you miss open enrollment?  Your current coverage will roll over and you won’t be able to make any changes unless you qualify for a life event change such as changes in marital status, a new birth, adoption, or death in your household, or you become eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.

Lastly, your post enrollment surveys are important.  They let your employer know what is important to you and may result in additional benefits at next year’s offering.

For more information on CastleHR Technology and Castle Group Health (, contact:

Mark Gurda
Castle Group Health ( & CastleHR
Tel: 847-559-8100, ext. 1201