For those of you getting your health insurance from your employer, you will probably be asked either this month or next to sign up again for the insurance plan that you want. Most of us always stick with the same one we had the previous year, but with costs rising and incomes stagnating, that might not be your best choice. Could you go with a higher-deductible plan to save money on your monthly premium? Could you open an HSA (Health Savings Account) to set aside some pre-tax money to help pay for medical costs throughout the year? Should you consider switching plans altogether? These are some important choices to keep in mind as you sign up for another year of health insurance coverage, and probably worth discussing with your benefits adviser. Of course, no matter what you choose you will still probably be responsible for many of your bills that insurance won’t cover, but you have to do a careful balance of premiums due and out of pocket expenses. An article in this month’s Money Magazine has a few tips that might help you make the right decision:
1. Look into high-deductible plans and opening an HSA
Start by deciding if the high-deductible plan with an HSA is right for you. Keep in mind that even after you meet the deductible, some expenses are not covered (see my experience with health benefits and deductibles) and you will pay for those above and beyond that deductible.
2. Check out all your options
Is the doctor you like still in your network? Do you want an HMO where you might have to get pre-approval for everything, or do you want a PPO that opens you up to just go to a specialist when you need to go? Is your company offering a package from a different insurer?
3. Be sure to understand all expenses
Make your own spreadsheet detailing the information for each available plan. Look at the monthly premium, deductible, co-pays and co-insurance, prescription coverage (Confirm that the plan covers your current medicines.), out-of-pocket maximums . This will make it easier to see exactly what monthly expenses you are going to be paying.
4. Choose wisely
You want a plan that matches your ability to pay, your age, your health, your history, etc. Taking into account all the different aspects and availabilities will help you make the right choice for you.
Whatever you do, don’t miss open enrollment season – you might either A. not get insurance or B. get enrolled in a plan you cannot afford or do not want. Be on the lookout for the new signup sheets from your employer!