Insurance -savvy Kendra Madsen is here to give us the scoop on what you need to consider about your health insurance policies. This is often a topic that causes terror in most people. Kendra’s insight and easy-to-understand explanations will make it easier to navigate discussing your current insurance policies and what you keep and what you change!
How to get the most out of your open enrollment period
It’s the busiest time of the year with holidays, family gatherings, present-giving, and everything else on your to-do list. The last thing you want to add to your list is making a huge decision that will affect you and your family’s health and finances for the next year. Unfortunately, November and December are exactly when you will have to make vital decisions regarding your health insurance and other benefits. In order to make this process easier and to help you make the best decisions, here is a quick guide for how to get the most out of your open enrollment period.
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Open enrollment is the one time every year (excluding special enrollment periods, which we will talk about later) where you can sign up for or change your insurance plans. Typically, open enrollment takes place from November 1 to December 15, but some states have extended that deadline, so make sure to check your open enrollment dates in your state. When you are making decisions regarding your healthcare and insurance, here are some things that will help you to navigate your choices:
Know the language
A recent survey found that 96% of Americans couldn’t define basic terms regarding their health insurance. Healthcare is confusing enough when you know the basic definitions of terms used in insurance talk, so let’s review some important terms to know and understand as you review your plan.
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Deductible: Your deductible is the amount of money you pay when you go to the Doctor’s office or clinic.
Premium: This is the amount of money that you pay each month in order to have your insurance coverage.
PPO (Preferred-Provider Plan): This type of plan typically has a higher premium but gives you more flexibility in who you can see for your healthcare needs.
HMO (Health Maintenance Organization Plan): This type of plan has a lower premium than a PPO but you have less flexibility.
HDHP (High Deductible Health Plan): This type of plan has low premiums but high deductibles, so you won’t pay as much each month but you will have to pay more when you need services.
HSA (Health Savings Account): You can use this savings account to pay for deductibles, copays, and other medical expenses. The important thing to know about an HSA is that you get to keep it even when you change jobs and the money you don’t use rolls over into the next year.
FSA (Flexible Spending Account): This savings account is set up through your employer and can go to any medical out-of-pocket expenses. The biggest difference between an FSA and an HSA is that you will lose any money you don’t use by the end of the year or if you change employers with an FSA.
Evaluate your health needs.
Now that we have a good grasp of the terms used in insurance talk, let’s look at your health needs. When enrolling in an insurance plan, it’s important to make sure that you are getting the coverage you need and try to save as much money as you can. Here are some questions to consider as you evaluate your health:
–Do you get sick or injured often?
–Do you have a chronic illness that requires frequent doctor visits?
–Are you taking any expensive prescriptions or medications?
–Are you planning on having a child in the next year?
–If you have dependents, what are their health needs?
While it is impossible to know exactly what will happen in the upcoming year, especially regarding your health, you should make an educated guess of how much healthcare coverage you are going to need as you sign up for health insurance.
Check your current plan
Now that you have figured out what your estimated health needs will be for the coming year, check your current insurance plan (if you have one). Will this cover your needs for the upcoming year? Sometimes employer-offered plans change, so you will also want to make sure that there haven’t been any changes that would affect your coverage, such as your doctor no longer being covered by your plan. Even if you find that your current plan covers your healthcare needs, it is still important to shop around and look at other plans to make sure that you are getting the best deal for you and your family.
Other types of insurance to consider
Healthcare may be your number one priority during the open enrollment, but don’t miss out on the other types of insurance and coverage that you can get. Open enrollment also gives you the opportunity to shop around for dental and vision insurance, which can be really helpful especially if you have kids.
Another type of insurance you may not think of is life insurance, which provides coverage for your family should you meet an untimely demise. While that isn’t fun to think about, it’s important to prepare so that your loved ones aren’t left high and dry financially if something tragic happens. Oftentimes, employers offer some life insurance but that is typically not enough coverage and you will need to supplement it on your own. Once again, there are a lot of different types of life insurance and different companies that offer unique plans, so you will want to shop around in order to find the best plan for you.
Talk to your HR reps and other experts
Finally, as you are making decisions about what you want to sign up for, talk to your HR reps and the customer service representatives from the insurance companies you are considering. Ask any and all questions that you may have and double-check that you will be getting the coverage that you need for the upcoming year. Your health and finances are not something that you want to have doubts and concerns about, so take advantage of these resources in order to make the best decisions for yourself.
Special Enrollment Periods
As promised, it’s time to talk about special enrollment periods. The open enrollment period only happens in November and December each year, but there are some life events that qualify you to make changes to your insurance and benefits throughout the rest of the year. Some of these life events are marriage, adding a child to your family, divorce, death, and job changes. When you go through one of these life events, you can make changes to your current insurance plans in order to make sure that you are getting coverage in this new phase of life. That means that you will want to go through the same process we talked about earlier to ensure that you find the right plan for your situation.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema
Your healthcare coverage is important, so don’t let this open enrollment period slip by without taking advantage of the opportunity to set yourself up for success in the coming year. Take the time this holiday season to make sure that your healthcare needs are being met by your current insurance or find a plan that does meet those needs.
Bio of Kendra Madsen
Kendra is a freelance writer who loves healthy living, the outdoors, and obsessing over plants. Having worked in the insurance industry for two years, she enjoys writing articles that help people navigate the complicated landscape of healthcare. When she isn’t writing, Kendra can be found exploring the mountains with her puppy or curled up at home with a good book.
Thanks to Kendra Madsen for her piece on how to deal with open enrollment. This topic often brings terror and hyperventilation attacks to many. Kendra has broken the process down into easily consumed “bites” of information. Thanks to her clear explanations, you can ask better questions about your insurance and get better answers that you will understand!
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