Q: I keep getting information from the insurance plan I had last year and I have switched to a new plan for this year. Why do they keep mailing me their information when I no longer have their insurance? Do I keep it?
A: I spend a lot of time talking about this issue. It is hard to know what to keep and what to get rid of. Let me first explain why this happens.
Each insurance company develops the 2014 marketing materials (enrollment documents) in early fall, and then holds them for mailing closer to the end of the year. But to get all that material printed and mailed out, it needs to start early. So they are printing and preparing the 2014 information for mailing before October 2013. During Open Enrollment of 2013 you switch to an alternate company for 2014. You still get that enrollment packet from your 2013 company because they have you on their list, when it is printed and labeled for mailing. You have switched to an alternative company and no longer have them, and don't want the information. The law requires they send it to you; if you had kept them as your insurer, you would need the necessary information relating to your coverage.
Also remember that if you have Prescription Drug Coverage Insurance with a company (example: SilverScript) and you fill medications, that company has to send you a monthly explanation of all the medications you filled. You will continue to get those documents into the new year when you no longer have that company. They mail these statements in January to reflect the purchases you made in December.
That is why you got the information. Now we move on to what to do with it.
For the insurance company that you no longer have, you may get rid of the 2014 insurance evidence of coverage and other documents. Be sure you are getting rid of the correct material, because you want to keep that same information from your new company.
I also recommend keeping the past year's information for at least two to three years, just in case. I have had situations where an insurance company comes back two years later to say they covered a medication or procedure incorrectly, and you may owe them or the provider money. If you have the documents from that company, you can argue that decision. I have done this successfully more than once, using the company's own published material. If you don't have the material, you can't dispute the coverage as successfully.
When your year is over, I recommend packaging up all that material, and monthly mailings you receive. Put it in a box or folder and label it with the year and what is included (drug coverage, Medicare statements, utility bills). Once it is safe to get rid of it, you can get rid of the whole folder or box.
Different documents have different "lifetimes of usefulness." Your Birth Certificate is something you never want to get rid of. Your utility bills are a different length of time of "usefulness." Your tax returns have yet another period of time.
This illustrates just some of the reasons that you continue to get information from companies you are no longer affiliated with. It begins to explain why you get so much "junk" mail that you don't want, aren't interested in and just throw away. I always recommend recycling all this printed material. It is better for our environment in so many ways. There are also some materials that you may want to shred or destroy before getting rid of.
I will be giving a talk on this very subject on Thursday. I call this "The Paper Chase."
This talk will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Christ Chapel on the Lutheran Campus at 715 Falconer St. Everyone is welcome to attend, no reservations required and it is free.
I promise not to hand out a lot of paper that you need to keep.
To contact Janell Sluga, call 720-9797 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.