Health Insurance News
How do you know if your employer is truly offering affordable health insurance? The New York Times suggests looking at the deductibles, premiums, and co-payments associated with the plans offered. However, don't make your decision solely on cost. It's also important that your plan offers the level of coverage you need most: whether it's basic catastrophic coverage of comprehensive care. Your own health plays a big part in that. In addition, if you have a particular doctor or specialist you would like to continue seeing, find out if they are included in your network. Some insurers only allow you to use doctors in their network, while others will charge an extremely high co-payment to see an out-of-network physician. Above all, speak with your plan coordinator or an independent health insurance agent if you're confused during this open enrollment process. You're not alone.
The open enrollment period is about to begin for the millions of Americans who receive health insurance from their employers. Employees have about one or two months to choose which of the offered plans they will take; they'll be stuck with their selection for a while year, so it's a very important decision. Don't rely on Congress' healthcare reform bill to provide you with a public option; it won't take effect until 2013, and its exact provisions are still unknown. Here are some tips on what to expect during the open enrollment process:
- Be prepared to pay higher premiums. The recession has forced many employers to cut back on their health benefits. In order to avoid laying off workers, an increasing number of businesses have chosen to reduce the percentage of benefits they pay for and pass those costs onto the consumer. Employees will still be able to buy policies at the lower large-group rate.
- There are unique concerns for a two-income household. If both you and your spouse work for employers that offer a health insurance plan, find out which plan is appropriate for your needs. Compare the costs and benefits offered, and, if possible, get the spouse covered under the better plan.
- More optional insurance benefits, such as dental and vision coverage, are becoming available. Workers will have to pay for most of them, but the plans offered through employers cost less than the vision or dental insurance available on the open market for individuals. Dental insurance is generally recommended, since checkups are required twice a year. You need vision coverage if you use glasses or contact lenses, or if you have a condition that makes you susceptible to eye problems (e.g. diabetes, old age).
- Consider opening a Flexible Savings Account or Health Savings Account. Employers are making it simple to sign up for a pre-tax deduction from your paycheck. It can be used to pay for prescription and over-the-counter medications, doctor visits, and other approved medical expenses. The HSA or FSA money is often given to you in the form of a convenient Visa debit card that easily tracks your spending.
(Image: KM Photography under CC 2.0)