AT MOST EMPLOYERS, gone are the days when you paid little for health insurance and you could see pretty much any doctor you wanted. You may still be able to pick a plan that gives you ample flexibility, but you’ll likely pay a steep price for the privilege.
Fortunately, this is an area where you can legally trade on inside information. Do you or other family members go to the doctor frequently? How much do you value the ability to see any doctor you want? How many, if any, regular prescriptions do you have? Do you expect to need a particular procedure in the year ahead?
If you have a choice in health plans, you can take all this family information and weigh which plan makes most sense, given the deductibles, co-payments for each doctor’s visit, prescription drug benefit and network of doctors available to plan participants.
Your employer may also offer a flexible spending account, which you can fund out of pretax dollars and then use for medical costs not covered by the insurance company. When your employer’s open enrollment period for benefits rolls around toward the end of the year, consider what health costs you might incur in the year ahead that won’t be covered by the insurance company, and then use that to guide how much you contribute to the spending account.
Planning to change jobs? Until your new employer’s coverage kicks in or until you purchase insurance through one of the health care exchanges, in companies with over 50 employees, it is the law that your company offer COBRA for up to 18 months. If you work for a company as small as two people, 16 states have a law called mini-COBRA requiring them to offer the same coverage an employee in a larger company would receive. Check the law for your state.
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Blog: Time to Choose