There’s a lot to consider when shopping for a health plan for you and your family, but the ultimate goal is to select a plan that covers your family’s health care needs at a price that works for your budget.
With a little research and preparation, you can find an affordable family health insurance plan. Here’s a helpful guide to get you started.
Step 1: Consider your family’s medical history and health care needs
Whether you’re purchasing coverage for a family of two or 10, it’s important to take the time to evaluate your health care needs.
Start by making a list of services your family might use throughout the year.
- Do you or a family member have any ongoing health conditions?
- Does anyone take medications on a regular basis?
- Are there any planned medical procedures for the upcoming year?
It may also be a helpful exercise to go through your family’s benefit usage over the last 12 months as a reference point.
Next, identify your preferred doctors and hospital systems. Health plans revolve around a network of doctors and knowing upfront whether you or your family members want to see a specific primary care doctor or specialist will likely influence your decision.
Once you have a list of potential needs and preferred doctors, you’re ready to start exploring your plan options for the upcoming year.
Step 2: Research your options
This year’s Open Enrollment Period is Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2017. This means you only have 45 days to purchase an Individual health insurance plan. Fortunately, you can start shopping for a plan in October before the official open enrollment period begins.
How do you get started?
There are a variety of resources available to you. Websites exist that allow you to compare plan options across insurance companies, you can go directly to a specific health insurer, or if you need more help choosing a plan, you can contact a licensed health insurance agent.
During the shopping process, consider how each health plan’s outlined benefits stack up against you and your family’s anticipated health care needs.
Next, think through your budget. It’s important to consider your monthly premium costs, your deductible and potential out-of-pocket expenses. It’s easy to go with the lowest monthly premium, but it might end up costing you more in the long run. Review each policy’s annual out-of-pocket maximum to determine the most you might have to spend on health care expenses during the year. This amount does not include your monthly premium costs.
Bonus budgeting tips – Some health plans offer additional cost saving benefits and tools that help you minimize your health care expenses throughout the year.
- A plan that comes with a Health Savings Account (HSA) can help you save money because any money you choose to contribute to the account is done before taxes. Therefore, it is tax free. When you use this account to pay for your health care expenses, rather than paying straight out of your pocket, you can see significant savings.
- To make things more simple, some insurers are making routine care services ahead of deductible to reduce your potential out-of-pocket costs. Services may include: urgent care, prescriptions and virtual visits.
- Seek out tools that help you estimate any costs you may incur before you receive care. Priority Health, for example, offers a Cost Estimator that allows you to research the costs associated with expected health care services and provides estimated out-of-pocket expenses based on your unique health plan.
Step 3: Choose and enroll in a plan
Now that you’ve considered your needs and researched your plan options, you are ready to enroll in a plan during the Open Enrollment Period, beginning Nov. 1. Note, not all insurers’ plans are available on the healthcare.gov exchange. Individual insurers may offer more choices if you shop with them directly, through their website or over the phone.
Before making the final decision to purchase a policy, closely review the full plan explanation. If it is within your budget, you may wish to consult an insurance agent to get a second opinion from a validated third party source before purchasing a plan.
Step 4: Peace of mind
Congratulations! You’re on your way to ensure you have a plan in place before the Dec. 15, 2017 deadline. By researching your options and enrolling in a health plan early, you’ll avoid any penalties and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you and your family will be covered in the upcoming year.
Making an informed health insurance choice takes time and effort, but the homework you do now will pay off later.