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Open enrollment is coming! 5 tips for picking the best health insurance coverage

By Maryalene LaPonsie on September 1st, 2011

Open enrollment Just as your family changes throughout the years, so too does your need for health insurance. If you receive medical insurance through your employer, the annual open enrollment period provides an opportunity to review your current health plan and make changes as needed. Don't simply sign-up for your company's cheap health insurance plan; consider these tips to make sure you are getting the best value for your family.

1.) Consider your needs for the coming year: Are you hoping to add a baby to your family or do you expect to schedule a major surgery? Make sure your plan will cover these events with minimal out-of-pocket expenses. Also, confirm that you aren't paying for any elective coverage you no longer need.

2.) Compare deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance costs: To find the most affordable health insurance, you need to look past the premium amount. Some health plans with rock-bottom premiums may require you to pay a significant amount out-of-pocket. In addition, if you expect to have large medical expenses in the coming year, consider health plans that charge a flat rate for co-payments rather than a percentage of the total bill.

3.) Double check in-network providers: Don't assume your physician or hospital will remain an in-network provider for your current health plan next year. Contracts between health care professionals and health insurance companies can change on a regular basis. Make sure your preferred doctor will participate in your plan for the upcoming year. In addition, if you are planning a major procedure, check that the facility you'll be using is covered as well.

4.) Check health plan reviews: Reviews of health insurance plans are available through several sources. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) maintains health plan report cards for plans that participate with the organization. In addition, some state insurance departments--such as the California Office of the Patient Advocate--rate health plans based upon national standards and member reviews.

5.) Attend your company's open enrollment seminar: Many employers host an open house or seminar to give workers the opportunity to ask questions and meet with health plan representatives. Even if you think you know which medical insurance you want, it makes sense to stop by these events. Not only can you clarify your expected benefits and costs, you can also connect with other employees who can provide real-world feedback on the pros and cons of the different health plan offerings.

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