Now more than ever, you need to take the time to review your health plan to ensure you’re not leaving money on the table. Going on “auto-pilot” during open enrollment season can be costly mistake. A new survey from Kelton/eHealthInsurance shows that workers tend to be lethargic about selecting their benefits for the following year and this can bite them in their wallets. Here are some tips to help you save money on your health insurance.
1. Review all your options. Review every plan available from your employer as soon as you receive your open enrollment packet. For good measure, check your options in the individually-purchased health insurance market, too. While group plans may still provide more robust coverage and will cover pre-existing medical conditions, individually-purchased plans may offer a stronger alternative than they did a couple years ago.
2. Shop smarter. If possible, enroll in a plan that only covers the services you need: It may mean a lower monthly premium. For example, a plan with robust maternity coverage may not be the best match for single guy. And if you don’t care about brand-name drugs, see if you’re offered a plan that covers only generic drugs instead. Choosing a high deductible plan may be smart for some individuals and families because it typically reduces monthly premiums, but be prepared to pay the amount of the deductible in the coming year as health-care needs arise.
3. Consider a Health Savings Account. Many employers offer a high-deductible option with an HSA. Some may even contribute to the HSA for you. Depending on your health-care usage, this can be a good option for saving because money can be deposited pre-tax in your HSA to cover unexpected health expenses not covered by your health plan. Unused savings can also roll over year-after-year until retirement.
4. Mix and match, if appropriate. Depending on your own and your family members’ health and how much an employer contributes toward dependent coverage, it may be less expensive for certain family members to be on a separate, individually-purchased health plan. Do the math on separate policies if there are special needs. It’s easy to price individual and family plans online. But remember that it’s possible to be declined coverage for an individually-purchased plan based on an applicant’s medical history, so don’t cancel an existing line of coverage until you’re approved for a new one.
5. Look for innovations in the individual market. If you can no longer afford employer-based health insurance, or if your employer plan doesn’t meet your needs, look for some new options in the individually-purchased health insurance market. Carriers in some states are offering incentives for you to avoid over-utilizing your coverage. For example, some may substantially reduce your deductible next year if you don’t use up your full deductible this year; others may incentivize healthy habits by sending you gift cards and other rewards for positive health outcomes.
6. Track your health expenses. Regardless of what plan you choose for 2012, be sure that you are tracking all of your health care costs including insurance premiums, copayments and drug expenses. This will give you the knowledge you need to evaluate your health insurance choices for 2013.
Carrie McLean is an open enrollment specialist with eHealthInsurance.com.