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Open Enrollment 2019 Make it Count: Five tips for choosing a health plan

By Dr. Mayrene Hernandez, chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Florida

Open Enrollment 2019 Make it Count
Open enrollment for 2019 health care coverage started in September and varies for employer- provided coverage, Medicare and individuals. Deadlines to apply or change coverage range from Dec. 7 to 15, 2018 for Medicare and individuals but it’s recommended residents start the process as soon as possible.

This fall, millions will head to the polls to cast their vote in the mid-term elections, but there is also another important choice to make: your health care coverage for 2019.

More than 12 million Florida residents will have the opportunity to select or switch their health insurance plans for 2019 during “open” or “annual” enrollment. But unlike Election Day, the dates aren’t the same for everyone and vary depending on your situation:
• For the more than 175 million Americans with employer-provided coverage, many companies set aside a two-week period between September and December when employees can select health benefits for the following year.
• For the 60+ million people enrolled in Medicare, Medicare Annual Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.
• Health insurance marketplace or individual state exchange open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

For most people, changes made during this time will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Choosing health benefits can feel stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Following are five tips to help make the process easier.

Take Time to Review Your Options
Take the time to explore your options and understand the benefits and costs of each plan so you can find the coverage that works best for you. Pay attention to more than just the monthly premium and review what out-of-pocket costs, including the deductible, copays and coinsurance, for which you may be responsible. You should also consider any changes to your health over the last year or if you have any major health events planned for 2019 – such as having a baby or surgery – to determine if your current coverage still fits your needs.

Prevent Financial Surprises
Before you select a plan, check to see if your doctor is in your health plan’s care provider network. Visiting doctors that are in-network is one way to help keep your costs lower. If you select a plan that would make your visit to a particular doctor or hospital fall outside the network, make sure you understand what the costs you may incur.

Be sure to also see if your medications are covered by the plan. Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to make sure your drugs will still be covered in 2019. People with Medicare should re-
member that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs, so if you are looking for help covering the costs of your medications, choose either a Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription coverage.

Look for Ways to Save
Ask about incentive-based wellness programs that reward you for living a healthier lifestyle. Some health plans offer incentives for their members to participate in activities that may help improve their health, such as completing a health assessment, visiting a gym, lowering their cholesterol, participating in a wellness-coaching or tobacco-cessation program, or even just walking.

Also, check to see if your plan includes 24/7 telehealth services. Telehealth services can be especially convenient for consultations on minor health issues that occur and can save both time and money. Often, telehealth is available to members of employer-sponsored, individual and Medicare Advantage plans.

Don’t forget about additional benefits and features
Open or annual enrollment is the ideal time to select benefit plans that can help protect you and your family from head to toe, so consider adding vision, dental and financial protection plans such as life, accident or critical illness coverage. For people on Medicare, many are surprised to find that Original Medicare doesn’t cover most dental, vision and hearing services. But many Medicare Advantage plans do and often include additional perks like gym memberships or discounts on hearing aids.

Learn the Lingo
Do you have a full understanding of health care terms, such as premium, deductible, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum? If not, there are resources online, including UnitedHealth Group’s Just Plain Clear Glossary (in English, Spanish, and Portuguese) to help you learn and understand health care terms.

For help navigating open enrollment, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com for more tips, articles and videos about health insurance and health care topics.

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