Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Making Smart Health Insurance Choices

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Health insurance open enrollment season will be upon us soon.  If you are working and have health care benefits, tempting as it is to set aside the “big envelope” with your 2010 health care insurance choices, take some time to look at plan changes.  Look at the premium, but also the out-of-pocket costs you’ll be responsible for in 2010.

 Employers are looking for ways to control costs so you may not see big differences in costs, but that doesn’t mean the plan is the same.  Here are some benefits switches to watch for as you calculate what’s the best plan for you and your famil, according to research company the Segal Group: 

  • reduced coverage for some brand name drugs/classes of drugs
  • reduced copayments for primary care visits,
  • increased copayments for visits to specialists
  • reduced copayments for certain preventative screenings/tests
  • financial rewards or penalties for wellness and disease management program results
  • mental health benefits – a new law may require your plan to upgrade its mental health benefits

 MetLife suggests that workers consider the following tips when making their benefits choices this year:

  • Take time to do your homework: Make sure you thoroughly research which employee benefits are right for you. The benefits you select for the coming year can have a significant impact on your family’s finances.
  • Read the proverbial “big envelope,” use online tools: When employees understand their benefits, they make better choices and tend to be more satisfied by and confident in the open enrollment process. Therefore, it’s important for you to read your company’s open enrollment materials from cover-to-cover. Many companies also encourage workers to read about their benefits offerings online, and some even offer web-based calculators and tools.
  • Consider making some changes each year: Very few people have the same benefits needs year-after-year. The fall open enrollment period is an opportunity to reevaluate your options and make changes. Make sure you consider changes or coverage increases, particularly if you’ve experienced a recent life event, such as getting married, having a baby or purchasing a home.
  • Don’t assume that a challenging economy means you’ll have fewer benefits choices: Most employers are planning to maintain – and some are even planning to expand – the breadth of their benefits offerings, especially when it comes to voluntary benefits. Voluntary benefits are paid for by the employee, typically at a significant cost savings due to group rates. Aging parents? Think about long-term care insurance. Sole breadwinner? Consider disability insurance. Buying a home? Access a legal services plan. New apartment? Don’t forget renters insurance.
  • Explore the advantage of pre-tax accounts: If your employer offers a flexible spending account for health care, vision and dental out-of-pocket expenses, consider that pre-tax savings can reduce your taxable income.

 If you have a young adult in the household with their first job, encourage them to bring the package home and help them through the process.  With health care costs continuing to rise, making the right health insurance choice can save you money.

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Written by Laura Rossman

September 4, 2009 at 1:23 pm

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