by Rob Falkenberg, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of California
Open enrollment season is here, a time when more than 18.3 million people in California and millions of Americans across the country will have the opportunity to select or switch their health insurance plan for 2020.
To help guide you during this important time, here are some tips that may help lead you to better health and cost savings.
1: Know your open enrollment dates
For the more than 178 million Americans with employer-provided coverage, many employers set aside a two-week period between September and December when employees can select health benefits for the following year.
For the more than 64 million people enrolled in Medicare, Medicare Annual Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.
For most people, changes made during this time will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.
2: Understand your options. When it comes to selecting a plan, one size does not fit all. Take the time to understand your options so you can find what will work best for you. A good first step is to make sure you understand health insurance lingo, such as premium, deductible, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum. If you need a refresher, check out UnitedHealth Group’s Just Plain Clear Glossary (in English, Spanish and Portuguese) to learn and understand health care terms. And if you’re eligible for Medicare, make sure you’re familiar with the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage as you weigh your options.
3: Anticipate next year’s health expenses. When reviewing your options, plan ahead. Maybe you are expecting a significant health event next year, such as a surgery or having a baby. If so, then it’s even more important to compare the “total cost” of your plan, not just your monthly premium. Plan designs vary, so also compare deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.
4: Check to make sure your medications are covered
Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to make sure your prescription drugs will still be covered next year. Costs can change from year to year, and how much you pay for generics vs. brands may differ among health plans.
5: Ask about well-being programs. Many health plans now offer financial incentives that reward you for taking healthier actions, such as completing a health survey, walking, going to the gym or not using nicotine. Also, many Medicare Advantage plans offer gym memberships and wellness programs for members at no additional costs.
6: Don’t forget about specialty benefits
Additional benefits, such as dental, vision, hearing, disability or critical illness insurance, are often cost-effective coverage options that can help protect you and your family from head to toe. For Medicare beneficiaries, some may be surprised that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services, but many Medicare Advantage plans do.
7: Try the convenience of virtual visits. If you are busy juggling kids’ schedules or work travel, or simply prefer to connect with a doctor from the comfort of your own home, consider choosing a plan that includes 24/7 virtual visits. It may be a convenient, lower-cost way to talk to a doctor about minor health issues, and all you need is a smartphone, tablet or computer. Often, telehealth is available to members of employer-sponsored, individual and Medicare Advantage plans.
For more helpful articles and videos about open enrollment and health care, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com.