September 21, 2007, Newsletter Issue #94: Evaluate Your Health Plan Every Year

Tip of the Week

Do not sign up for the same health plan year after year simply because it is convenient. Look into the new plans and changes. These days, the real differences lie in the plans' co-pays and deductibles, not the premiums.
To figure out which option is best for you, estimate what your total annual costs will be under each plan, depending on your family's situation and medical needs. Did you recently get married? Did you recently have children? Are you taking care of your parents? Did your doctor drop the plan you were in? Is your plan more difficult to deal with? Does you plan still cover screening procedures? Most importantly, are you just not satisfied with your current health plan? Often, you can lower your monthly health insurance premium by buying a policy with a higher yearly deductible amount. This is your opportunity to reevaluate the plan you are in and switch to a better plan. Keep in mind that plans that help to manage the care you receive tend to cost less and limit your choices in doctors and hospitals, so do not base your decision on co-payments and deductibles alone.
In addition, no matter how long you have had your policy, be sure you get a CURRENT list of providers that are available under your plan and double check that they are still considered “in-network.” If you are looking at a new plan, be sure that the doctors are still alive, practicing and accepting new patients. You may have to call the doctors on the list yourself, but you can do this during your “free look” period that is described as tip #10. Some plans offer updates online, so make sure to bookmark those websites on your computer.
If you are looking into a new health insurance policy, be weary of dread disease policies, which are policies that pay only for the costs for treatment of specific disease; supplemental policies or hospital indemnity plans, which cover your hospital expenses for each day you are in the hospital (usually there is a limit); accident-only policies, which covers care from an accident and not an illness; discount plans that are not consider health insurance plan because they do not cover “high medical expenses” and other limitations; and “stacked” policies, which look attractive because they combine several of these limited products mentioned. None of these policies are comprehensive by any means, which is why it is important to understand exactly what is being put in front of you by the insurer. Your regular plan probably already provides all the coverage you need.

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