SEATTLE — An annual occurrence that rolls in with pumpkin spice and disappears along with mistletoe is upon us once again, and this year open enrollment in health care insurance plans is more important than ever.
As with just about every facet of life, the global pandemic is making its presence known as people decide on their health care options for 2021 – whether that’s through employer-provided plans, individual plans through the Affordable Care Act, or Medicare.
“Gosh, the pandemic has had such a profound impact on all of us, and it's made it more important now than ever to pick the right health plan for you and your family,” said Carmen Cooper, the director of account management at UnitedHealthcare.
“UHC did a survey and found that 44% of Americans say that COVID actually impacted that buying decision of what they were going to do, with 10% opting for more comprehensive coverage in the coming year.”
Open enrollment time for employer-sponsored plans varies, but generally it’s a 2-to-3-week period some time from September through December. Medicare open enrollment is from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7; and for individuals going through the Affordable Care Act it’s Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.
Knowing and understanding the options available to you is important in the time of COVID. Cooper says there are three things to consider: first, make sure your doctors are in-network; second, know your prescription drug benefits and co-pays.
And three: “Step back and look at the big picture,” Cooper said. “Know what all of those extra costs are through the year. You're looking at premiums, but you also have to think, what if you have a big knee surgery coming up? (What is) the cost of that knee surgery out of pocket? It actually is better for you financially to go onto a richer plan because your out-of-pocket costs are going to be lower.”
Another way to maximize your insurance benefits is through a health savings account, or HSA.
“HSAs are really, really great investment vehicles,” Cooper said. “And also a great way to get the most out of your health plan. With HSAs the money goes in tax-free, it accrues interest tax-free, and it comes out when you pay for qualified health care expenses, tax-free.”
Many, if not most, plans also have built-in wellness benefits – financial incentives for walking a certain amount in a specific period of time; gym membership reimbursement; and weight loss programs are just a few examples.
One benefit you should make sure is part of your plan is the ability to conduct telehealth visits.
“These are great because they can go anywhere from just getting a run-of-the-mill antibiotic for a cold from the comfort of your couch, or we actually have mental health behavioral health visits,” Cooper said. “You can talk to a therapist, and often times these visits can cost anywhere from $50 to being free for you out-of-pocket, so really important benefit to make sure you have especially in the pandemic.”
For lot of great information and resources to help you make an informed choice visit uhc.com/openenrollment.