Top tips for understanding and choosing your health care benefits

Consumers spend an average of 10 hours researching a new car but one hour or less when it comes to reviewing their health benefits during open enrollment.  When you think about it, these days a hospital stay could drain your bank account in a matter of days, so it makes sense that you should take time to see what you’re getting when it comes to your health plan. Research the plans available and find one that best suits the needs of your family. Take into consideration too, how much the policy will cost your family in both monthly premiums and how much the co-pays and deductibles will cost you out of pocket.

 Open enrollment is the best time for consumers to review their benefits in detail and ask questions of those who are providing the healthcare benefits. You need to be fully informed because this can lead to both better health and cost savings.

Here are five tips to keep in mind when open enrollment rolls around.

  1.  Compare options and understand the total cost of each health benefit plan – remember it’s not just about what is deducted from your weekly paycheck that you have to be aware of.
  2. Is your doctor in the network? Check that out first as it’s likely you don’t want to have to choose a new doctor, unless the health benefit plan truly makes it worth your while.
  3. Know and understand the benefit package. You can usually tell at a glance what the premiums, co-pays and deductibles are but ask about items that might not be covered such as health coaches and wellness programs. Don’t forget to check the prescription drug plans that are available – some may cover only generics, others may offer discounts on mail order prescriptions.
  4. Regardless of whether you plan to make any changes in your healthcare plan, double check that the plan you’re currently using hasn’t undergone any changes. Check to see if your doctor is still in the network.
  5. Plan ahead for the following year. If you can anticipate next year’s health benefits (pregnancy, planned surgeries, etc.), compare plans to see how those events are handled by both your current policy and others that might be available.

If your employer offers Flexible Spending or Health Savings Accounts consider joining one to help with out of pocket expenses. There are free resources that can help get a basic understanding of health insurance plans.

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