Open enrollment (the annual period when you can enroll in major medical health insurance plans), began November 1, 2023, and will remain open until January 15, 2024. You will need to enroll by December 15, 2023 for coverage that begins January 1, 2024.1 For someone looking to change or add coverage, this offers a short window of time to decide on and select your health insurance plan. Take some time now to prepare and think through your options. Below are top tips for choosing the right health insurance plan for you and your family’s needs.
Who Should Utilize Open Enrollment?
The Open Enrollment Period (or OEP) is for anyone looking to make a change to their health insurance coverage, whether through their workplace or the healthcare marketplace. This could include looking for a cheaper plan with similar coverage, gaining coverage if you previously had none or changing your coverage altogether to better meet your needs.
Tip #1: Assess Your Current Costs
When thinking about changing your health insurance plan, it’s important to reassess your healthcare-related expenses. Take a look at how much you’re currently paying per month for your plan as well as what sort of out-of-pocket expenses you paid over the past 12 months.
These could include:
- Routine doctor’s visits
- Specialist visits
- Emergency room or urgent care visits
Unless you foresee any major changes in the coming year (such as pregnancy or a large operation), this could be a helpful indicator when it comes to determining what type of coverage will be cost-effective and appropriate for you.
Tip #2: Choose Your Marketplace
You may be able to gain coverage through several marketplaces, including:
- Your or your spouse’s workplace
- Federal marketplace
- Local or state marketplace
- Private exchange
- Directly through insurance providers
If you have the option to gain coverage through your employer, this will likely provide you with the lowest premiums. This is typically because the insurance company offers rates via a group plan, which includes the individuals employed by or affiliated with your employer.
If your employer does not provide healthcare coverage (or you wish to look elsewhere for it), you can gain coverage through the federal or state marketplace. You’ll start at Healthcare.gov, which will then direct you to your state’s marketplace (if applicable).
Tip #3: Decipher Your Available Plan Types
There are four common types of health insurance plans you’ll come across when selecting coverage: HMO, PPO, POS, and EPO.
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
Pros: HMOs tend to have lower monthly premium costs and out-of-pocket costs as compared to other plan types.
Cons: You’re typically limited to seeing providers only in your network, and these must be coordinated by your primary care provider (unless it’s an emergency). This gives you less overall flexibility.
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
Pros: PPOs offer the user more freedom when it comes to choosing healthcare providers and specialists. You can see people outside of your coverage network, although this will typically result in higher out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, you typically will not need a referral from your primary care provider to make appointments with specialists.
Cons: Out-of-pocket costs and premiums tend to be higher for PPO plans, especially when compared to an HMO.
Point of Service Plan (POS)
Pros: With a POS plan, you have the flexibility to visit out-of-network healthcare providers, but typically at a high out-of-pocket cost.
Cons: Similar to an HMO, you will likely need a referral from your primary care provider to see a specialist or have a medical procedure done. Additionally, your primary doctor will coordinate your care for you.
Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)
Pros: An EPO will typically offer you lower out-of-pocket costs, and a referral is not needed to see specialists or have medical procedures done.
Cons: You will be required to visit specialists within your network unless it is an emergency. An EPO will typically provide less flexibility and freedom when it comes to choosing care providers.
Tip #4: Account For Your Current Providers
As shown above, every plan type either requires you to visit in-network providers or offers lower out-of-pocket costs for visiting an in-network specialist. If you already have preferred providers on your current plan, switching plans could jeopardize your ability to visit them in the future (or cost you more to do so).
When comparing plans, make sure to check whether or not your current healthcare providers are in-network. If they are, you should have no problem continuing to see them as you did before. If they’re out-of-network, you’ll either have to find a new provider or prepare to pay more for every visit.
Picking the right health insurance plan for you and your family can feel overwhelming, but with careful planning it is possible to find a plan to fit your needs. With plenty of time left to choose a plan, take the time to carefully consider your upcoming health insurance so you can make the best, educated decision for your family.
While there may not be a verse in the Bible that discusses health insurance(that I’m aware of), the Bible exhorts us to view our bodies in a higher light. 1 Cor 6:20(NKJV) reads, “ For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I believe this verse is telling us to view our bodies as the means to a fulfilling our greater purpose in the kingdom of God, as opposed to our primary focus. While it can be easy to look at the natural benefits of keeping our bodies healthy, it is more important to understand how our bodies should be primarily used for doing what God has called us to do. Everything else beyond that is secondary.
Paul describes this mindset shift as he wrote in Romans 6(MSG), “Offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!” Earlier in the chapter Paul illustrates this with our bodies as “slaves to righteousness.” Our minds tell us this is backwards. How can we be a slave and yet be free? Because we serve a heavenly master who is good, and he fills us with his life when we set ourselves apart to him. Our bodies then reap the benefits of the life that infills us. Every part of our being improves by following God’s plan for our life!
Evergreen Financial Group is a Fee-Only Financial Planning and Investment Firm located in Billings, MT serving clients in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and virtually across the country. Evergreen Financial Group specializes in working with Christian families, including Young Professionals, Current and Future Retirees and Church Staff Members.
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