October 31st is a mere 6 days away and with it, the deadline for many employees to enroll in a health plan, in addition to other employer sponsored benefits. Employers generally provide materials that explain available programs, and in the case of more than one health insurance alternative, a side by side comparison..
Sadly, it’s not that easy to select health insurance based on broad comparisons. And although some basic questionnaires and calculators with accompanying results may be available, employees undoubtedly have questions that aren’t asked or addressed. Information is usually broad and often not informative. Most employers plans look different for 2012 and aside from the increased cost, the variations may not be apparent to employees If there are several options, the alternatives frequently differ from state by state. The premiums can vary from plan to plan even though the coverage looks identical. More employers are offering a high deductible plan for 2012 and, in some cases, it may be the only plan available.
Why? If the plans look the same, why not take the plan with the least expensive premium? Wouldn’t that automatically reduce your health care costs?
Not exactly. Before selecting your health insurance coverage during open enrollment, use the following checklist:
- Was I satisfied with my coverage this year? Is my employer offering it again?
- Will my current health care have the same coverage and doctors?
- Do all plans cover particular treatments (i.e. fertility) in the same way?
- My spouse’s employer now offers health insurance. How do we decide?
- Should I cover my college student or use the college’s health care?
- Does the prescription coverage meet our needs?
The critical questions are those that are specific to your family. Only you can judge the physicians, drugs and other services that are necessary and select the most appropriate plan offered by your employer.. The cost of health insurance to an employer can depend on several variables including state, coverage and possibly income bands but there’s not much you can really do but accept the one plans that meets your needs even if it’s not perfect and pay the cost accordingly. Health insurance, like life insurance, is state regulated so that the carriers accessible in your state may be limited, so again your options are what is being offered.
Comparison shopping among the plans may be a nuisance, but you owe it to yourself and your family to spend the time understanding and selecting the best and most cost effective option available.
Don’t let your health care planning turn into a ghost or goblin. For additional information, contact Ellen at EAB HealthWorks.