Many employers are providing new and higher advantages—how to decide on the correct ones for subsequent 12 months

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There is currently no pumpkin seasoning season for employees, but the season of open enrollment. That means it is time to make the health and retirement decisions that are right for you in 2022.

It is not easy and many workers feel uncomfortable when they make wise choices. In its 2021 Work Status Survey in America of 1,500 US employees, professional services company Grant Thornton found that 36% of workers were not confident that they had chosen the best medical plan. And 80% of employees surveyed by Lincoln Financial said they would like them to have a better understanding of some aspects of their retirement plan.

Employees can expect to see rising health costs out of pocket through their employer insurance in 2022, including premium increases of 4% to 5%. Some higher-paid workers have to pay more for their health insurance than lower-paid workers. About a third of employers surveyed by consulting firm Willis Towers said they would consider narrowing the network of doctors and other health care providers available to patients.

But you can get some pleasant surprises.

“As employers continue to compete for talent, many are adding a number of new benefits to their offerings for the next year, including resources and additional paid leave for nurses, surgical centers of excellence [more on this below], Financial planning and advanced mental health services, virtual physiotherapy and other digital health programs, ”said Erin Tatar, senior vice president of workplace consulting, Fidelity Investments.

Some employers have also added an emergency savings account option through payroll deductions. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, around 23% of employees are currently offered one.

Tatar’s advice: “Take the time to attend virtual performance fairs to review your employer’s growing list of health, wealth, and other benefits this fall.”

Get the right health insurance

For many older workers, access to affordable health insurance is the most important benefit for workers they seek. Before signing up for health insurance for 2022, ask yourself: How much have I paid in premiums this year? How many trips to the doctor, hospital or emergency room have members of my household made? What else did we spend on healthcare in 2021?

Then start by comparing the features and prices of your options as these can vary significantly. Compare benefits, rules, restrictions and costs such as deductibles, annual deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. You may need to look into Alphabet City and choose between a High Deductible Health Insurance Plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account or HSA (an HSA allows you to save money in a tax-deferred account and then withdraw tax-free cash to pay for qualified medical expenses) , a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan and a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan.

Don’t assume that the health plan and benefits you had in 2021 will be the best for you in 2022. Your plan may have changed. Your circumstances may have changed; For example, if your last son or daughter is currently studying, it can make sense to purchase a university rate for this child while you and your spouse switch from family insurance to “Employee + 1” insurance.

And don’t miss out on the numerous health benefits in your tariff selection, especially new ones that can save you money.

“An often overlooked benefit for older workers is a surgical competence center program,” says Tatar. If you are planning an operation – for example on the spine, knee, hip or obesity – the company will make sure that you are cared for by a center of excellence in order to receive first-class and affordable treatment.

“They often offer the participating patients more generous service coverage and cover the travel costs for you and a companion in advance if the best care takes place outside of your community,” notes Tatar.

If you’re in good health, says Seth Mullikin of Lattice Financial in Charlotte, NC, “an HSA (high deductible) generally makes sense. From a financial planning perspective, it will be better if you can finance these costs from personal savings and let your HSA money grow tax-free over time. “

The HSA can keep you paying for healthcare bills well into the future, even into retirement, Mullikin adds. In 2022, employees with high-deductible health plans are generally allowed to deposit up to $ 3,650 into an HSA; up to $ 7,300 for family insurance.

Time for a second opinion?

You may also be able to sign up for a second opinion under your health insurance. Some employers have even extended the right to a second medical opinion for an employee’s parents and grandparents.

“With increasing age, the risk of suffering a serious health event increases. In this case it is natural to get a second opinion. Some employers we are working with now want to give their employees more security and therefore offer advantages for a second opinion, ”notes Tatar. “Then they can optionally provide you with a complete medical diagnosis and treatment plan that you can discuss with your doctor. And it is usually 100% covered. “

Mental health insurance

The pandemic and the revelations from star athletes like tennis player Naomi Osaka and gymnast Simone Biles have made taking care of our mental health a priority.

More than three-quarters of major employers surveyed by the nonprofit National Business Group on Health (NBGH) say access to mental health care is now a top priority. In 2021, 62% of employers surveyed by NBGH have additional mental health benefits.

To do this, check to see if your employer includes resilience and mindfulness training, as well as mental health options such as telehealth counseling, in their service offerings.

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Occupational disability insurance

You may also want to take out disability insurance.

“Your chance of becoming disabled is far greater than your risk of premature death,” said financial advisor Graham Ewing of the Hunt Valley, Maryland Consulate Treasury. “If your employer offers disability insurance, consider it.”

But, he adds, “You need to understand how disability is defined by the insurance company. For example, some policies only pay benefits for two years if you are unable to do your current job. Others pay no more than two years if you are not completely incapacitated. So find out what is covered and what is not. “

The group disability insurance usually pays up to 60% of the salary if you can no longer continue your job or change to a different position and are likely to be unable to work for a year or more.

Care services

If you are caring for an aging loved one or someone with a serious illness, inquire about work-life balance or employee assistance programs. Some companies now offer caregiver navigation benefits that connect you with experts to find local elderly care resources or assisted living or nursing home options.

If you are a nurse you will likely need some give and take with your schedule, so see what HR will do for you.

Tim Glowa, a director and chief of employee listening and human capital services for Grant Thornton: “Everyone has a unique set of responsibilities outside of the office. When companies return to the office, it becomes more important than ever to give people the time they need to take care of the important things at home. “

Financial health and retirement planning

The open enrollment season can also be a good time to rethink your retirement plan and do a “financial check-up,” much like an annual health check-up from your doctor, says Ewing.

“You should reconsider your risk tolerance, especially if you are concerned about fluctuations in the stock market,” he adds.

Mullikin notes that many of his 50+ customers are concerned about having enough cash to comfortably retire. “So our first task is to see if they can increase or maximize their 401 (k) contributions,” he says.

Another way to save more for retirement if you are over 50 is to make catch-up contributions to your retirement savings.

Read: 4 Key Ways The Social Security Act 2100 Would Change Benefits

This allows you to deposit up to $ 6,500 more than others into a 401 (k) or 403 (b) plan, or up to $ 1,000 into an individual retirement account. “In addition, you and your spouse (if they are also enrolled) can make catch-up contributions of up to a thousand dollars to your HSA by the age of 55,” notes Mullikin.

See also: There’s one huge thing gig workers can do to save for retirement – but most aren’t

Reimbursement of your remote working expenses

If you’re working remotely even part of the time in 2022, check with your HR department about reimbursement for home office expenses such as a standing desk, Wi-Fi extender, headset, and ergonomic devices that will keep you healthy and productive.

About a fifth of employers surveyed by benefits consultancy Mercer said they would add or improve reimbursement for outside employees in 2021, including subsidizing ergonomic furniture.

Some companies pay between $ 200 and $ 300 for setups. Others offer partial ongoing reimbursement for an employee’s home Internet service and cellular service.

David Conti is a New Hampshire based writer and former editor at Fidelity Investments. Today he writes for several national publications on personal finance, retirement, aging and employee benefits. Contact him on LinkedIn.

This article reprinted with permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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