Some people think of October as Trick or Treat time; Patient Advocates see it as the kickoff of health insurance open enrollment for the coming year, whether employer-sponsored, individual, and/or Medicare.
It may not be as playful as donning a costume or carving a jack o’lantern, but approaching your open enrollment period with the right spirit can certainly help you from getting tricked the next year.
So you’re not in the dark:
- Assess how much financial risk you feel comfortable with. This might be influenced by how much savings you have, how often you need healthcare, and especially your personality. Some of us are more inclined to take chances; some of us protect ourselves against every possible negative outcome we can.
- Understand what health insurance is and isn’t. It doesn’t eliminate your risk of getting sick or hurt, and it doesn’t protect you from all financial risk if those things happen. Health insurance is a way to lessen your risk from the cost of illness and injury (which can be substantial), and how much it protects you depends on several things in your control.
- Keep this rule of thumb in mind: When you look at your insurance options, the lower your monthly payment for insurance (the premium), the more out of pocket expenses you’ll incur if you get sick or hurt. In other words, it’s important to balance the monthly expense against what you can afford to lose overall. A lower monthly expense may not be the best overall financial choice for you.
- Staying in the network for your insurance can be a bit like figuring out who’s really in that ghost costume at the party. It can be really confusing. But it may be the most important aspect of making your insurance work for you. If you’re changing plans from the previous year, and if staying with your doctors and hospitals are important to you, it’s critical that you check to see if they’re in network for a new plan.
- Full disclosure: Virtually none of us (OK, I know a select few) actually read their full insurance contract until they have to. But if you don’t read anything else, it’s important to look carefully at the provisions for emergency care. If you never leave home, it may be less important for you, but many plans have coverage limits outside their geographic service area or special requirements for emergency care to be covered. This has important implications to consider if/when you’re traveling.
And if this all feels a bit too tricky, call us for a 15 minute consultation and we’ll help you put the light back in your open enrollment jack o’lantern.