If you experienced any surprises with your health insurance over the past year – for example, you discovered that your doctor wasn’t part of the network or your deductibles were too high to handle – open enrollment is your once-a-year opportunity to make a change. Even if you liked your coverage during 2015, it’s a good idea to shop because you may benefit by switching plans.
I hear from Floridians every day who are daunted by the task of selecting health insurance. Florida Health Choices is here to provide consumers with effective ways to navigate open enrollment. We recommend you follow these seven simple tips for the best experience:
1. Don’t make a last minute decision or miss a deadline – Your health plan selection is important and deserves time for consideration. Mark your calendar now for our open enrollment period, which is November 1, 2015, through January 31, 2016. Start early and don’t wait until the last day to make your selection.
2. Check with your doctor – When considering a health plan, don’t rely solely on the online provider directory maintained by the insurance company. If the physician or specialist that you prefer is listed under a plan, verify that with a phone call to their office. Online directories are not always up-to-date or the physician may be planning to leave the network in the near future. Also, a physician may participate in some but not all plan offerings of an insurance company.
3. Review spousal coverage – Many employers are making changes to spouse benefits by adding “spousal surcharges” or excluding a spouse’s coverage altogether if they have access to employer-based health insurance. When both spouses have access to employer-based coverage, it’s important to study both and select the option that best fits your family’s needs.
4. Don’t shop based on insurance premiums only – The lowest price plan is not always the most affordable plan when you take other factors into account. Deductibles and co-payments can add significantly to the bottom line of your health care costs. Consider the number of prescriptions, any planned procedures, and the number of specialist visits your family may expect to make, and then consider how this changes your cost comparison. If you shop online, use a website that offers decision support tools that can perform this exercise for you – the results may surprise you.
5. Consider an HSA – Health Savings Accounts allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars in a qualified investment or savings account for long and short term medical expenses not covered by insurance. An HSA can help you manage deductibles and co-payments and is worth checking out.
6. Review the automatic renewal policy – Not doing so can be a costly mistake. The plans that were competitive when you shopped for your current plan may no longer be the best option during the upcoming open enrollment period. You may have more companies to choose from and more plan options to consider. In Florida some companies are raising their rates and others are lowering them. Don’t automatically renew current coverage just because it seems easier – it pays to shop around.
7. Shop on a private exchange –You can get a qualified health plan with comprehensive benefits from numerous sources. If you don’t qualify for subsidized health insurance through a public program, shop on a private exchange. Decision-making tools, broader networks, and more plan options are just a few reasons to consider a private exchange. You can shop and compare plans anonymously and at your own pace at www.myfloridachoices.org.