It’s that time of year again: open enrollment for your 2021 benefits. (Photo: Chinnapong / Getty Images)
Would you spend more time choosing a health plan or debating whether “Tiger King” or “Schitt’s Creek” is a better choice for binge-watching?
If you put more thought into picking a show, you’re not alone.
Open enrollment for 2021 benefits will kick off in November when companies ask their workers to pick everything from medical and dental plans to long-term disability insurance. While those are big decisions — it turns out workers typically spend just 17 minutes on their choices, less time than they spend on picking a Netflix show, according to Voya Financial.
This year, workers need to buckle down given the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, experts say. People are creatures of habit, meaning that more than 9 of 10 workers usually select the same choices as in the previous year, says Matthew Owenby, chief human resources officer at insurance company Aflac.
“Having been in HR for my entire career, I wish I could tell you why they are on autopilot,” Owenby says. “Our main takeaway is that workers need to stop assuming that what worked in the past will work for them moving forward.”
Is COVID-19 covered?
Those issues are thrown into stark relief given the ongoing pandemic, with more than 8 million people infected in the U.S. and over 225,000 deaths. About 1 in 3 workers told Aflac in a recent survey that they don’t feel confident or aren’t sure if their benefits will protect them or their family if they are affected by COVID-19.
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“People are worried about getting sick, or know someone who has gotten sick, and they are thinking, ‘Would I be covered for the medical bills if I have to go into the hospital or get a test?’,” says Mona Zielke, senior vice president of employee benefits operations and claims at financial-services firm Voya Financial.
There are signs that workers are getting the message, with Voya finding in a recent survey that slightly more than half of employees intend to make changes to their benefits this year. Open enrollment is typically the only chance to make changes to your benefits unless you have a significant life change, like getting married or having a baby.
Here’s advice from the experts about how to navigate open enrollment this November:
Be alert for open enrollment dates
Your employer will typically alert you to its open enrollment period ahead of time. While there is no required length of time that companies must offer open enrollment, the sign-up period typically lasts three to four weeks, Zielke notes.
By comparison, open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act — which offers medical insurance plans to people without employer-sponsored coverage — is open from November 1 to December 15.
But employers typically offer a smaller window for open enrollment. Because