Navigating the Open Enrollment Period

Last updated: November 2018

It’s that time of year again! The 2019 Open Enrollment Period has begun. From Thursday, November 1, 2018, to Saturday, December 15, 2018, Americans have the ability to shop for new health insurance plans. As someone who has recently navigated this intimidating terrain (I’m self-employed so I qualified for the Special Enrollment Period), I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve learned from the whole experience.

Seek professional help

To be honest, I would have never made it out alive if it wasn’t for the help of my independent health insurance representative, Karen. Not only was she extremely patient (trust me, she deserves every penny that she made), but she listened very closely to my situation to ensure that we found the plan that was the best fit for my wallet and coverage needs.

One of the benefits of using an independent insurance representative is they will shop ALL of the health insurance plans on the market—not just the plans at one specific company. You may be wondering how much a service like this costs. The answer is that it is 100% free for the consumer.

Participating doctors

One hurdle I continuously had to jump was finding a plan that all of my doctors participated in. As you can imagine, this can be difficult for an eczema patient as we typically have multiple specialists that we regularly see.

From my experience, the cheapest plans tend to have a smaller medical network. I recommend visiting your prospective insurance provider’s website to see if your doctors accept the plan you’re considering. If you have the time and would like to take it a step further, I suggest calling your doctors to see if they take said plan. Sometimes the website does not accurately reflect reality.

Finding the right balance

Typically, the plans with the least restrictive coverage and the lowest deductible are the most expensive while the plans with more restrictions and higher deductible tend to be the cheapest. Choosing a plan with better coverage may seem like the way to go, but you should remember this; you will be responsible for paying that premium every single month.

Is that something you can comfortably afford? If not, you may be able to get away with a plan that is less pricey. Many doctors are willing to come up with payment programs for their patients but an insurance provider won’t be as flexible.

Is the plan HSA-eligible?

Is your plan HSA-eligible? If so, you’re in for a real treat. HealthCare.Org defines an HSA as, “A type of savings account that lets you set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. By using untaxed dollars in a Health Savings Account (HSA) to pay for deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and some other expenses, you can lower your overall health care costs.”

As you can see, an HSA has the ability to offset any medical costs that may be incurred before your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum are met.

Consider other insurance needs

In addition to health insurance coverage you may want to consider dental or vision plans. These may not be for everyone, but it is still important to consider. Normally, these plans can be added on at a minimum cost (my dental is $28 per month) and can be bundled with your health insurance plan. If you find one that you like outside of your provider, don’t worry, you can still sign up for that one if you’d like.

Navigating the Open Enrollment Period can be stressful. No matter how difficult it may be, it is very important that you take the time to find the right plan for your healthcare needs. If you stay calm, ask a lot of questions, and do your research, you’ll come out on top.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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