Trick Or Treat: Taking The Fright Out Of Choosing A Health Plan

I didn’t need to watch a horror movie, walk through a haunted house or be wary of the witches and warlocks wandering the French Quarter streets this Halloween. Instead, I was thoroughly spooked just helping my mom change her health insurance plan. What should have taken one call took about 16, and everyone offered conflicting information. What’s even more frightening is I still don’t know if all her changes will take effect today as they are supposed to, thanks to a special enrollment period, and no one has been able to tell me exactly how much her new monthly premium is going to be.

According to Joe Ochipinti, CEO of UnitedHealthcare-Gulf States Region, more than 2.5 million people in Louisiana will have the opportunity to select or switch their health insurance plans for 2019 during “open” or “annual” enrollment. He said the more than 175 million Americans with employer-provided coverage could select health benefits for the following year between September and December, and for the more than 60 million people enrolled in Medicare annual enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Starting today, there’s also open enrollment for the health insurance marketplace or individual state exchanges. Regardless of your insurance situation, expect most changes to take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

So, how do you start? How do you choose? How do you know which plan is right for you? 

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UnitedHealthcare’s Ochipinti gives Leslie’s List readers five valuable tips:


• Take Time To Review Your Options

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“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,” said Ochipinti. “Pay attention to more than just the monthly premium. You should understand what out-of-pocket costs, including the deductible, copays and coinsurance, you may be responsible for, and 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

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“Before you select a plan, check to see if your doctor is in your health plan’s care provider network,” said Ochipinti. “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 outside the network, make sure you understand what the costs may be.

“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 remember 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,” said Ochipinti. “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 that can be especially convenient for consultations on minor health issues that occur. 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,” said Ochipinti. “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,” said Ochipinti, “such as premium, deductible, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum? If not, there are resources online, including UnitedHealth Group’s Just Plain Clear Glossary, to help you learn and understand health care terms.”


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