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Benefits Enrollment Season--Avoid the Landmines

By: Teri Bernstein


Most employers who provide benefits have a fall open enrollment period, where participants can choose a different type of plan. The dates change from employer to employer, so pay attention. The main benefit areas include:


  • health benefits (HMO, PPO, various deductibles, co-insurance, maximums, and co-pays; single or family)
  • Tax-assisted benefits: Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Spending Accounts (HSA);
  • Vision and/or dental insurance
  • Other tax-related benefits such as pre-tax child care deductions. 


It is not only open enrollment season at workplaces--it is also open enrollment season for the Affordable Care Act (November 1 to December 15, 2017). Some of the same issues arise when choosing benefit plans, with a notable addition: subsidies. All choices apply to 2018 and if you are late, in many cases you become ineligible for coverage. You might want to check out some advice: 



Source: "How to navigate benefits enrollment season at work," by Lacie Glover, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2017.



  • What is your personal situation with health care? Find how much it costs per month for COBRA, if you are covered under your parents' plan. If you are covered by your employer's plan, what is the cost per month for them and for you? Or under ACA? What are your annual benefits and out of pocket costs?
  • What is a "cafeteria plan" employee benefit program? How would individuals in different life situations use cafeteria benefits?
  • Define the following and cite the pros and cons of each: HMO; PPO; FSA; HSA.