Open Enrollment: Tips for Selecting Health Insurance

By Glen J. Golemi president and CEO, UnitedHealthcare-Gulf States Region

Open enrollment is the time each fall when most Americans select or change their health benefits for the following year.

Choosing health care coverage is one of the most important decisions people make. Therefore, it’s essential that consumers fully understand their options during open enrollment so they can choose a plan that will help them enhance their health and possibly save money.

Even with health insurance coverage now available in many states through government exchanges, the vast majority of Americans – nearly 158 million – will continue to obtain health benefits through their employer. Many companies set aside a two-week period between October and December for when their employees can select health benefits, so now is the time to start getting prepared.

Here are three important tips for a successful open-enrollment season:

Tip 1: Review your options.

It may sound simple, but taking the time to review your options is very important. Ask

questions. In many cases, people who review their health plan options may find ways to save money on their health care costs – whether it’s through selecting a plan that will cover more of their expected health costs for a major event (such as having a baby or surgery), evaluating prescription drug coverage, or having the opportunity to enroll in an incentive-based wellness program.

Some insurers, including UnitedHealthcare, offer wellness programs or incentive programs that may help you lower your cholesterol, quit smoking or lose weight. These incentives may include gym membership discounts, lower premium costs or merchant gift cards.

Tip 2: Make sure your doctor is in-network – it can usually save you money on out-of-pocket costs.

Even if you don’t plan to make any changes to your health insurance this year, it’s always good to ensure that any doctor you see – or plan to visit in the coming year – is in your plan’s care provider network.

Many insurers offer a broad choice of local in-network health care professionals, and these in-network care providers agree in advance to what they’ll charge for specific procedures. You should also call before your procedure to verify the care providers are in-network. If you plan to visit a doctor or hospital outside the network, be sure to understand how your costs will differ from those of an in-network care provider.

Tip 3: Don’t forget about specialty benefits.

Specialty benefits like dental and vision plans are often available at a minimum cost, and cover annual teeth cleanings and eye exams. Many vision plans also offer reduced pricing on frames and lenses. Research suggests that there is a connection between oral health and overall health, so adding a dental plan may help prevent more serious medical problems.

For help navigating open enrollment, visit www.uhc.tv, a public online resource with simple, fun videos that help people learn about health care, open enrollment and what to consider when choosing a plan. UHC TV features a “Health Insurance 101” channel with programs such as Simply Stated that includes episodes “Open Enrollment Guide,” “Choosing a Health Plan,” and “Save on Health Insurance,” as well as other videos designed to help people understand their benefits and save money.

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