How to Choose the Right Health Plan
BY LIZ WESTON
When we’re given a choice about our health care plans, we often choose badly. In one study, more than 80% of the employees at a Fortune 100 company picked the wrong plans, often choosing low-deductible options that ultimately cost them more. Another study found that inertia — sticking with the same plan, rather than evaluating the options each year and choosing a better one — cost workers an average $2,032 annually. These findings shouldn’t surprise anyone who has tried to compare multiple health insurance plans offered by an employer, an Affordable Care Act marketplace or insurers with coverage that supplements Medicare. There are simply too many moving parts: what you pay each month (your premium), how much you have to pay before insurance picks up a larger share of the cost (your deductible), and the limit on how much you’ll pay in a year (your maximum out-of- pocket), for starters. There’s also how much you’ll owe for each doctor’s visit, test or prescription, which could be a flat amount (your co-pay) or a percentage (your co- insurance), or both. These amounts can vary not just by insurance plan, but also by the types of medical service you get, with different amounts for hospital stays, lab work, preventive care and so on. Which prescription drugs are covered varies from plan to plan and from year to year. So does the list of medical providers who are considered “in-network.” But we owe it to our health and wallets to make the best choices we can during open enrollment. The following steps won’t guarantee you’ll pick the best plan, but they may help you avoid the worst. MATCH YOUR CONSUMPTION TO YOUR DEDUCTIBLE Many experts recommend high-deductible plans for healthy people who rarely visit the doctor, since premiums for these plans are lower. But high-deductible plans also can be a good fit for people who need a lot of health care, says Carolyn McClanahan, a physician and certified financial planner in Jacksonville, Florida.
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