Open enrollment is underway or about to begin for millions of Louisianans shopping for family or individual health insurance coverage for 2016.
Whether you’re buying health insurance for the first time or considering changing from your current plan, the process can often be confusing. Therefore, it’s important to understand your health plan options so you can find a plan that will help enhance your health and possibly save money in the year ahead.
The following tips can help you select a plan that makes financial sense while providing the benefits you and your family
Be aware there are three distinct open enrollment periods
If you are choosing a plan for yourself and helping family members with their health insurance decisions, the timing
Employer-Sponsored Coverage – Most large employers schedule a two- to three-week period when their employees can select health benefits for the following year. This period is often in the fall, but the exact dates depend on the employer.
Medicare Open Enrollment Period – For most Medicare beneficiaries, the Open Enrollment Period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 is their only opportunity to make changes to their Medicare coverage for next year.
Health Insurance Marketplace or State Exchange – A public health insurance exchange may be a good option for people under 65 who don’t have health insurance. For the exchanges, open enrollment starts Nov. 1, 2015, and ends Jan. 31, 2016. To learn more, visit Healthcare.gov.
Set aside enough time
Set aside enough time to review your options, and attend any information sessions at work or in your community. You may find ways to save money on your health care costs – whether it’s by selecting a plan with a lower monthly cost and/or deductible level, or a plan that will cover more of the expected costs for a major health event you anticipate, such as having a baby or surgery, or evaluating prescription drug coverage.
Select care providers who participate in the insurer’s network
Even if you don’t plan to make any changes to your health insurance, it’s still a good idea to ensure any doctor you plan to visit during the coming year participates in your plan’s care provider network.
Many health plans offer a broad choice of local in-network health care professionals, from primary care physicians and pediatricians to specialists, 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, learn up front how your costs will differ from those of an in-network care provider – sometimes the difference can be substantial.
Don’t forget about other benefits
Specialty benefits such as dental, vision, accident or even critical illness plans are often cost-effective options and cover annual teeth cleanings and eye exams or provide financial benefits for unexpected situations. Many vision plans also offer reduced pricing on frames and lenses.