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Read That Benefits Package Carefully
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Read That Benefits Package Carefully
Read That Benefits Package Carefully
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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

OK, if you have a job and benefits, congratulations. And get ready to think about both because this is open enrollment season again. That's the time of the year when you can make changes in your benefits. But should you?

Michelle Singletary writes about personal finance in her column, The Color of Money. She's a regular guest on Day to Day. Welcome back, Michelle, and what is new this year for open enrollment?

MICHELLE SINGLETARY: Well, like the last several years, healthcare costs are up. So expect to probably have to contribute more to your benefit package. According to Hewitt Associates, the average amount employees will pay for healthcare is expected to increase almost nine percent in 2009.

So one of the things employees have to pay attention to are the co-payments. So normally, you get these packages, and you just sort of check off boxes and just automatically sign up for the same health plan or dental plan. But you really need to pay attention to the cost involved and how much more you have to pay. So, you've got to pay attention to what's in your plan and really look and see what health benefit is going to fit your budget.

CHADWICK: So what other trends do you see coming for this open enrollment period?

SINGLETARY: Well, one thing is that more employers are looking at your dependents and making sure that they are all eligible. They're actually doing audits. So you need to look at your package and see if they're asking you to verify your dependents. If you don't send that form in in a timely manner, they may take off the dependents from your health insurance.

The other thing is, more employers are having on-site clinics. About 30 percent of employers that were surveyed by Watson Wyatt are now going to be offering clinics to their employees, which, you know, is probably a good thing. It's a way to save costs.

CHADWICK: So, you get that package, you know. It's kind of a bulky envelope. What do you do with that stuff?

SINGLETARY: Read everything. I mean, I know it's...

CHADWICK: No, no, no. It's too much.

SINGLETARY: No, I'm telling you. It's too much, but I'm telling you, the cost and the co-payments and all the deductibles, you may end up in a package that you don't understand and have more debt than you expect. So, you've got to read everything. Don't assume what you were offered last year is going to be the same for the coming year. And make sure you consider all changes or coverage increases.

You know, look at your disability insurance. You may need to up that. Before, when you were just single and maybe one kid, you might have said, oh, I only need 50 percent of my income if I become disabled. But now, if you've got a larger family or a pay raise, you want to up that disability coverage. So you've got to - I mean, I know people don't want to do this, and it's tedious. But with the cost going up, you need to look at that package. Open it up, sit down, take some time to make sure you're signing up for all the benefits that you need because you're going to be locked in for this for the next year.

CHADWICK: Michelle Singletary writes The Color of Money column for the Washington Post. She's a regular contributor to Day to Day on questions of personal finance. You can write her at Day to Day. Put Michelle in the subject line, send your questions for her. Michelle Singletary, questions on personal finance.

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