Friday, September 24, 2010

Get the facts about your health insurance options this open enrollment season.

Health insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all. That’s why most employers offer employees a choice in health insurance plans and a chance to re-evaluate their options once a year during an “open enrollment period.”

For many people, this might be their first time participating in open enrollment. Others might be trying to figure out how health care reform legislation will affect their options this year. Whatever your situation, the most important thing you can do during open enrollment is get the facts.

When it’s time to evaluate your health insurance options, gather as much information as you can and go through it carefully. If you ask questions, attend informational seminars, and make sure you understand the details of the insurance plans your employer is offering, you will be well equipped to choose the right option for yourself and your family.

To help you through the process, here are some tips for navigating the upcoming open enrollment season:
1. Decide what you need. Take the time to think carefully about your family’s specific health needs in the coming year. Are you and your family members generally in good health? Do you have any medical conditions like diabetes that require special care or rely on ongoing prescription drugs? Be sure the plan you choose offers the best options for all of your needs.

2. Do your research. Especially now that we’re in the midst of implementing the federal health reform legislation, it is important to attend employers’ information sessions to learn about different health plan options. Ask questions, talk to human resource managers and learn about changes that might impact you and your family.

3. Know how much your plan costs. Rising health care costs across the country could effect how much comes out of your paycheck, your copays or other out-of-pocket health care expenses. Make sure you understand in advance all costs associated with each of the health plans offered, in addition to the monthly premium.

4. Find out how you can save. Are there options that will help you save more on your health care costs? Many employers offer health savings accounts, in which employees contribute a pre-tax portion of their pay to cover medical expenses and prescriptions. Find out if there are tools available through your insurer to help you better manage costs. For example, UnitedHealthcare’s web portal offers online tools to help plan participants find quality, in-network doctors, compare treatment costs and track health care expenses.

5. Jump on the wellness bandwagon. If your employer offers wellness programs, take advantage of them. A recent study by UnitedHealthcare’s Optum Health division found that employer-sponsored wellness programs are the key to helping people make healthier choices, take advantage of preventative care and catch health conditions before they become bigger, more expensive problems. Smoking cessation classes, online health coaching, disease management, weight loss programs and discounted or subsidized gym memberships are just some of the programs that may be available to you through your health plan. Remember, better overall health means lower health care costs, for you and your family.

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