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Open Enrollment - Look For Changes to Benefits This Year

For many companies, November is open enrollment. This is the time when you can make new choices or confirm existing ones in regards to your company's health insurance and other benefits.

But this year, you need to pay special attention to the details of these benefit plans because you're likely to see some big changes.

For starters, you're probably not surprised to hear that health insurance will cost you more in 2011. Employees' out-of-pocket expenses are expected to increase 12.5%, according to the benefits consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

You'll likely pay more for any dependents covered on your health plan. Some companies are charging higher premiums for dependents, or covering fewer of their costs.

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But other companies are making a more dramatic change. Instead of charging your family a flat fee, they are now charging per person covered by the plan. So a family of five will pay more for insurance than a family of three.

On a positive note, thanks to the new health care laws, you'll also be able to add adult children, up to age 26, to your health insurance. But before you choose to add them, look closely at how much your company will charge you. It may be cheaper to buy your adult child an individual policy, especially if she has no pre-existing conditions. Healthy young people can typically find an affordable health insurance plan for around $150 a month.

Another change under the new health laws involves health care spending accounts. In the past you could spend this tax-free money on over-the-counter medications. But this is no longer allowed 2011. So folks will need to adjust the amount of money contributed to their health care flexible spending accounts accordingly.

Finally, be aware that a growing number of companies will be offering high-deductible insurance plans, paired with health savings accounts which allow you to save tax-free money for out-of-pocket medical costs such as deductibles and co-pays.

I recently wrote about these plans. They are certainly worth checking out, particularly if you and your family don't incur a lot of out-of-pocket health costs.