10 Tips for Choosing a Health Plan
Choosing health benefits may be one of the most important decisions you make every year. If you are one of the millions of Americans who will be shopping for health insurance on public exchanges this year, open enrollment began November 1, 2015.
Choosing your health plan can feel like a challenging task, but it doesn’t have to be. Affordability is an important part of the decision. But don’t stop there. Make sure the plans you are considering are easy to understand and use.
These 10 tips are aimed to help you pick the best health coverage for you and your family and get the and peace of mind you need.
1. Understand the terminology — become familiar with commonly used words. Start with the quick guide here, and find more at healthcare.gov. Many insurers offer glossaries, too.
What you pay for covered services before your health plan begins to pay.
A set dollar amount you will pay for doctor’s visits, or covered prescription medications.
Amount you pay to your insurer/health benefit plan, either directly or shared through an employer.
Health Savings Account (HSA)
Tax-exempt savings account that allows you to pay—or save for—covered health care costs.
2. Make a list – Identify your current and expected health care needs, including prescription medications, planned surgeries or procedures for the upcoming year, to help you pick a plan that meets your needs.
3. What’s new in your life? – Did you get married last year? Have a baby? Retire? A new life event may impact your health benefits and change the kind of plan you may need.
4. Learn from the past – Think back to any problems you may have had with your previous plan. Now is the time to choose the coverage you wish you had.
5. Get a plan that fits you – Your plan should fit your lifestyle and health care needs. Many people are on the go. Mobile access to health care and even virtual doctor visits rank high on their list. Others may need a plan tailored just for their health care condition. For example, in Northern Virginia, Innovation Health is introducing a plan that is designed for diabetics that offers lower deductibles, more regular checkups and wellness options. Find a plan that works for you.
6. Know what you’re paying for – While there may be several factors involved in your health plan decision, cost is probably a priority. Make sure you understand all of the costs associated with your plan, beyond just the premium.
7. Is your doctor in the network? – Review the materials from insurer to note any changes from the previous year, and make sure your preferred doctors and hospitals are in the network.
8. Ask questions! – Ask your doctor questions about tests, medications, consultations and other health care services you may need over the next year to help you make a smarter decision. Take advantage of online information sessions and other resources to help you better understand your options.
9. Know your deadlines – Start early. Give yourself plenty of time to choose your benefits. You don’t want to be scrambling for answers with a deadline looming. Here is a quick glance at deadlines for different types of coverage.
10. Keep it simple – Look for new plans that are designed to simplify how you choose and use your health plan, similar to online banking. Here are some features that may be available to you:
– Digital tools – Look for everything from tips and tools to help you choose your plan and digital ID cards (so you don’t have to carry one in your wallet) to digital prescription refills and mobile apps. Get health care information any time and in any place.
– Local health care – Quality care from local doctors and hospitals that work with you to coordinate care and improve your health.
– Service advocates – A personal health care advocate (not a computer voice) who can answer your questions and even call the doctor’s office to resolve complicated questions
– Healthy rewards – Get rewarded for taking an active part in your health. Earn gift cards for syncing your fitness wearables, learning how to use your plan, and completing a health assessment.
For more information about the Health Care Exchange, visit HealthCare.gov or ENROLL Virginia!
ENROLL Virginia! offers free, in-person help in your language and in your community. Trained professionals are available to answer questions over the phone or in-person. Call statewide toll-free at 1-888-392-5132.
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