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Five Tips for Choosing a Health Plan

By Amy Turner for Innovation Health.

Have you started searching for your health plan for 2017? From now until January 31, you can begin looking for the health plan that meets both your needs and budget; the deadline is December 15, if you want your coverage to begin on January 1.

As a local health plan provider, we at Innovation Health know choosing a new health plan can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you simplify this year’s shopping process.

1. Find a plan that fits your needs.
Your plan should fit your lifestyle and health care needs. For a lot of people, having access to health care on the go is important. Mobile access to health care and even virtual doctor visits rank high on their list.

Others may need a plan tailored to a specific health care condition. From a plan designed specifically for patients with diabetes or mental health, needs-specific plans bundle common provider services associated with various conditions, and emphasize specialist care that may not be covered by a more traditional plan.

Don’t settle for a plan that isn’t the best fit. Shop around and ask a broker for additional insight if you are unsure which plan may be right for you.

2. Make a list.
Did you get married last year? Have a baby? Retire? A new life event may impact your health benefits and alter the type of plan you need.

Start by making a list of your current and expected health needs, which should include planned surgeries or procedures for the upcoming year.

When you’re making a list of what’s new in your life, note any health lessons you’ve learned from the past year. Whether you’ve had good experiences with a family doctor who recommended new healthy habits, or bad experiences with a doctor who was difficult to get in touch with and unaware of your health history, make notes and commit them to memory.

Also consider creating an ‘ideal health plan checklist’ that lists the expectations you have of your new plan. This can serve as a solid reference point throughout the health plan selection process.

3. Understand your plan costs.
While there may be several factors involved in your health plan decision, cost is probably a top priority. That’s why it’s important to take the time to read through the details of the entire plan. Make sure you understand all of the costs associated with your plan, and what they mean for you.

Be sure that when you’re considering the cost of a health plan, you look beyond the premium. No one wants an ER visit or unexpected illness to happen, but it’s important to know the costs associated with these occurrences. Taking the time to understand all possible costs will help you choose the right plan.

4. Know your network. 
Whether you’re staying with the plan you had last year or moving to a new one, it’s always a good idea to make sure your doctor and hospital are in network. If you’re staying with the same plan for 2017, be sure to review the materials from your insurer and take note of any and all changes from the previous year.

If you’re choosing a new health plan and don’t have a regular doctor already, now can be a great time to schedule an appointment with an in-network primary care physician (PCP). A PCP can help you manage your health throughout the year, ensuring you receive preventative treatments like mammograms or vaccinations in a timely manner.

5. Be your own health advocate.
Picking a health plan doesn’t need to be complicated or scary. By taking charge of your health choices, you can feel confident in the plan you choose. Start by making sure you know all of your deadlines. Give yourself plenty of time – you don’t want to be scrambling for answers with a deadline looming.

Here is a review of this year’s open enrollment deadlines:
– November 1, 2016: Open Enrollment started — first day to enroll, re-enroll, or change a 2017 insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Coverage can start as soon as January 1, 2017.

– December 15, 2016: Last day to enroll in or change plans for coverage to start January 1, 2017.

– January 1, 2017: 2017 coverage starts for those who enroll or change plans by December 15, 2016.

– January 31, 2017: Last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan. After this date, you can enroll or change plans only if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Remember that being your own health advocate doesn’t mean you have to make these decisions alone.

You can visit HealthCare.gov for information about the options available through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

If you’d like more help, you can contact for a free consultation —
For personal:
Jeremy Stern, Licensed Insurance Agent
HealthMarkets Insurance Agency
Life | Health | Medicare | Long-Term Care
P 703.787.8300 ■ C 703.969.1811

For businesses:
Bill McAvinney, Innovation Health’s resident broker,
540-373-0084 or [email protected]

Editor’s Note: Innovation Health is a health insurance partnership between Inova and Aetna. Inova is a nationally recognized not-for-profit health care system serving more than two million people each year.
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