It's a season many people dread – it can be confusing, boring and time consuming. We're not talking about the holiday season – we're talking about open enrollment. For many, open enrollment season is in full swing and the information overload can be overwhelming. In this Angie's List report, why it pays to be proactive when choosing your health plan.
Changes in health care have put us in the driver's seat. Now is the time to do your research, weigh all options and pick a health plan that's right for you.
"Taking advantage of the open enrollment period is a time for you to evaluate what your insurance covers and make sure you assess needs you are going to have over the next year," says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "If you have to make changes to your insurance you can do it now before it's too late."
When Charlie Klumpp turned 65, she learned her physician's practice didn't accept Medicare. After paying for a couple of office visits out of pocket, Klumpp decided to switch doctors. Now she always checks with doctors before scheduling an appointment.
"I called, talk to the business offices and said, "I am a Medicare patient. That's my primary. I have a secondary insurance. Will you file that for me? Do you have any concerns about taking on an additional Medicare patient?" says Klumpp.
"One thing many people overlook is whether their doctor is going to continue to accept their insurance," says Hicks. "While you are evaluating insurance, have a conversation with your doctor, especially if you're in the midst of a longer term treatment plan to be sure that you are still going to be covered. The last thing you want to have to do is change your doctor in the middle of treatment because of an insurance issue."
If you don't understand what your plan does and does not cover, you could end up spending more money. Don't assume the plan and policy that you had this year will still cover your needs next year.
"The biggest mistake people generally make when they are buying insurance is not knowing what they are looking for," says insurance broker Jacob Gorden. "People know they need it and know they have to get it, per the new laws, but they don't have an idea of exactly what they are looking for and often when they purchase it they don't understand what they have."
Take a look at what you spent last year in premiums and out of pocket expenses and compare that to what you expect to spend in 2014.
If you don't understand your health care options, don't be afraid to ask questions. Sit down with your benefits person at work or talk with a financial planner or insurance broker.
"We can shop every single insurance company licensed in your city and state," says Gorden. "We can recommend plans and give you pros and cons of each. Brokers are compensated by the insurance company themselves so there is no fees or service charge to work with a broker. We can just make the whole process a lot more smoother, more efficient, and make the whole process a lot easier on you."
Angie's List say if you decide to work with an insurance broker who's an independent agent, you'll want to make sure he or she has the necessary credentials and is appropriately licensed.
Requirements vary in each state, but generally insurance agents must pass an exam to become licensed and certified.