It’s that time of year. If you’re still among the employed and your employer still offers health insurance as a company benefit, any day now you’ll be paraded into the company conference room to hear about your open enrollment options. If you’ve used this occasion in past years to mentally sort your sock drawer or to practice your doodling skills, make 2010 the year you listen up. You could end up with better coverage, lower costs or both.
Are you married? Don’t make any decisions until you discuss and compare plan options with your spouse. Figure out which of you has access to the better plan for your particular situation and go with that one.
Single or married, don’t assume your employer’s options are the best for you. It’s never been easier to shop and compare prices for health insurance. While the group rates available to businesses are usually cheaper than what an individual can get, it can’t hurt to get competitive health insurance quotes.
Read the material. Don’t assume that what you had last year is still the best deal. Your situation may have changed. The insurance company benefits may have changed. Your employer’s rules may have changed and failure to make a decision could leave you without any coverage at all. (The HR lady covered that while you were playing hangman on your cell phone.)
Are you super picky about which doctors you see or being able to see a specialist without going through a primary care physician? If you really don’t care and you’re offered an HMO option, you can save a lot of money. If you do have favorite doctors, don’t turn down the HMO without first checking to see if they’re in the network. Otherwise, you could be paying extra to see a physician you could have seen anyway.
Don’t let monthy premiums be the only deciding factor. Figure out your other out-of-pocket costs like prescription drug coverage, copays, and your share for hospitalization, tests and procedures. Then factor in any wellness incentives or discounts.
Does your employer offer a high-deductible plan with a Health Savings Account? If you’re young and healthy, this could be a big money saver with a lot of tax advantages, too. Your employer may even offer matching contributions to your HSA.
Does your company’s health insurance plan offer a Flexible Savings Account? This lets you set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses, over-the-counter drugs, dental services, eyeglasses and other items. Just don’t declare more than you think you’ll legitimately spend because unspent FSA funds are forfeit at the end of the year.