The holidays can be a hectic time: making lists, checking them twice, and planning for parties, relatives, and seasonal events. It’s also the time of year when we can choose new healthcare coverage, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.
November 15 to February 15 is the annual period of open enrollment for medical insurance coverage. Check out these seven tips to help make choosing a healthcare plan a little bit smoother this season, from healthcare.gov, Kaiser Health News, and Bankrate.
1. Act by Monday, December 15. Whether you’re switching healthcare plans or enrolling for the first time, try to choose by December 15, so you can begin 2015 coverage on January 1.
2. Shop around. The plan you had this year may not be the best one for the coming year. You and your loved ones may have different medical needs, and a higher-tier plan may help lower the cost of co-pays and routine visits. You can compare your options at healthcare.gov, or ask your insurance provider for more information.
3. Research your network. Out-of-pocket healthcare costs can quickly add up into the thousands, so make sure you know which doctors in your area accept the plan you’re considering. Even if you’re keeping the same coverage, make sure nearby medical offices are still taking it. You can visit your healthcare provider’s website to find doctors in your network.
4. Read the fine print. Cheaper isn’t always better when it comes to medical insurance. It’s important to consider all the costs, such as medicine, co-pays, emergency room visits, surgeries, dependent costs, maximum out-of-pocket expenses, and deductibles. The plan you choose will affect the cost of all your medical visits, so make sure you read everything carefully.
5. Find out about discounts. If you’re enrolling through a healthcare exchange, see if you qualify for financial assistance by entering your income in a calculator. It’s important to enter exact numbers, so you don’t end up owing extra money next tax season. If you have an employer-provided plan, ask about wellness discounts or other incentives.
6. Get free help. If you’d prefer to talk to someone about your healthcare enrollment options, you can find a trained helper in your community. Search for free local assistance here.
7. Check with BBB. To learn more about your healthcare provider, local medical offices, and other businesses, you can read BBB Business Reviews on bbb.org.