6 Tips for Choosing a Health Plan

1) Identify changes before re-enrolling

Happy with your current health plan? That's great but find out if there are any changes for the new year. A change in the network size or a favorite provider that has moved to another system can be a rough surprise when the need arises. Additionally, make sure that your rates and benefits have not increased. If you've noticed adverse changes then it may be time to pursue other options.

2) Use tools from your employer

Navigating healthcare choices can be a challenge. Your employer may offer online cost calculators or informational seminars from various health plans that can help you gain a better understanding of your options. Make sure you're taking the time to utilize the educational opportunities that are available.

3) Make sure your favorite doctor is included

Do you have a PCP that you've been seeing for years or a specialist with strong historical knowledge of your unique situation? Switching plans could mean that you no longer have access to a particular provider. Investigating the care network and covered providers is an important step in choosing the right health plan. Ensure that the hospital and physicians in your plan are right for you.

4) Compare all the costs

Healthcare costs can come from a variety of places even if you're insured. When you're looking at the cost of potential plans you'll need to understand what your employer is contributing and what you'll need to pay. Also note that this number might be different for dependents on your plan. You'll also want to look at the deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums. Each of these things could end up making a huge difference in your costs over the year. Finally, evaluate the healthcare costs and quality of the hospitals included in your plan.

5) Understand your unique needs

Do you require monthly medication? Do you have young children that still need immunizations and regular check-ups? Your unique needs will have a big effect on which plan is right for you. A high co-pay can quickly add up if your health needs require that you visit a doctor often. Likewise, a prescription that isn't covered can end up costing more in the long run than money you may save on monthly premiums.

6) Look for a plan with providers who are conveniently located

Finding time to visit the doctor isn't always easy. Ease of access can be very important. Figure out which health plans offer care close to work and home in order to maximize your time and access. Also consider urgent care locations that may be close to home, unexpected needs can often be met more quickly at an urgent care center instead of an emergency room (not to mention you'll often save money at an urgent care center).