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How the pandemic is impacting open enrollment choices in 2021

In our new survey, we asked full-time employees how COVID was affecting their thinking around benefits — including life insurance

By now, you know the story. First, came COVID. Then lockdowns and mask mandates. Then vaccines and reopenings. Then the Delta variant and back to mask mandates. And now, here we are — roughly 73% of American adults have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine (which is good!), but the virus is surging, especially among those yet to be vaccinated (which is bad!). The takeaway? We can expect the coronavirus to be around for a while longer, and that reality will affect how we make our most important decisions — including the ones we make this fall during our 2021 open enrollment periods.

Open enrollment, as you probably know by now, is the annual period when your employer requires you to make decisions around health care and related employment benefits. Do you need vision and dental coverage? How much do you want to pay for a health care plan? Do you want a higher deductible and lower premium, or vice versa? Choosing a health insurance plan can be complicated and stressful even during the best of times. Factor in a global pandemic and, well, there’s a lot to consider heading into this year’s open enrollment window.

If you feel seen by what you just read, you’re not alone. As millions of employees head into the open enrollment period, Haven Life surveyed 1,000 people with full-time employment status at a business owned by someone else (that is, people who are not self-employed or freelance/ contract/ gig workers). We asked them for their thoughts on the pandemic, on open enrollment, and on the intersection of the two. Here’s what they told us.

In this article:

Most people are concerned about the Delta variant

In fact, 71% of respondents said they were, and 45% said the variant would impact the benefits they choose for their new plan in the fall. This survey was taken in July, so we can only assume both percentages have grown even higher as the latest wave of COVID has swept through the country.

A vast majority are purchasing the same or more benefits coverage due to the pandemic

Only 3 percent of respondents said they’d be purchasing less coverage than they did before the pandemic. Per our survey, 72.48% are purchasing the same amount; 14% are purchasing more. (Roughly 10% said the question wasn’t applicable, or that they wouldn’t be purchasing new coverage during the open enrollment period.)

It all makes sense, as the events of the past year and a half have us all thinking about things differently. Among those things: Our overall health, our needs related to health, and our plans for what should happen in case of an illness or emergency. Some types of insurance make about as much sense as they did before — your vision or dental plan, for example. (Well, on second thought: Did you overindulge in sweet treats during the pandemic? We know we sure did. Maybe we’ll pay extra attention to dental this fall.)

Others might be worth re-evaluating. Health coverage, for example. Maybe you’re young and healthy, or maybe you’ve been dealing with a few already-known health issues. As the pandemic reminded us all, none of us is as young as we used to be, and even the relatively youthful among us weren’t immune to the more harrowing effects of COVID. And if your “health issues” are now what is commonly referred to as “underlying conditions,” well, you already know the deal. Spending a little extra for health care coverage that spares you the worst financial consequences of getting gravely ill (or worse) makes more sense now than it might have a couple years ago — or even a year ago, now that we know what the Delta variant (and, perhaps, future variants) can do. It’s worth double-checking to make sure you have the right medical plan in place.

Disability insurance is another category worth considering. Did you know that according to the Social Security Administration, one in four 20-year-olds will experience a disability before their retirement age that will prevent them from working for at least a year? Given the still-mysterious long-term effects of COVID (just google “COVID long-haulers,” if you’re not already aware), many of us are thinking twice about what would happen if illness or injury were to keep us from working for a period of time. Consider taking a closer look at what your employer offers for disability income protection, or, hey, check out Haven Life’s new disability insurance.

Generally, people are happy with the benefits they are offered

Two-thirds of respondents felt their employers offered enough employee benefits to meet their needs. This is a good thing, considering how much basic needs like health coverage are still tethered to employment status — and how much the events of the past 18 months or so have reminded us how tenuous both employment and health can be.

Most respondents would be underinsured if they relied solely on their employer for life insurance

Many financial experts recommend considering life insurance coverage between 5 and 10 times your salary, but most of our respondents said they were only offered coverage equal to their salary. In other words, getting life insurance through your employer alone would leave you with far less coverage than your family would likely need if the worst were to happen to you.

Suffice it to say, in times like these preparing for the worst remains one of the best things you can do for your family. And most financial experts would agree that making a plan includes getting a life insurance policy that would provide for your loved ones if you were to die unexpectedly.

If you’re heading into the 2021 open enrollment period, it is critical that you consider the full suite of your benefit options — including those offered on a group and voluntary basis by your employer, as well as individual offerings outside of work. For example, a Haven Term policy can offer a 35-year-old woman in excellent health $500,000 in life insurance coverage for 20 years for just $17.50 per month.

It might be a cliche to say that peace of mind is available for less than what most people spend per month on coffee, but you know what they say about cliches? They became cliche because they’re true.

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About Louis Wilson

Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children.

Read more by Louis Wilson

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit:

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