2. Review ALL your options: Start reviewing every plan available from your employer as soon as you receive your open enrollment packet. Look carefully through each "Summary of Benefits and Coverage" form you receive in order to understand what your costs may be for medical care rendered under each plan. For good measure, check your options in the individually-purchased health insurance market too. Health care reform has strengthened the benefits offered under most individually-purchased health insurance plans. While many group plans may still provide more robust coverage and will cover pre-existing medical conditions, individually-purchased plans may offer a stronger alternative than they did a couple years ago -- especially for persons who can no longer afford employer-based coverage.
3. Shop smarter: If possible, enroll in a plan that only covers the services you need most. Doing so may allow you to save money on your monthly premium. A plan that covers chiropractic care, for example, may not be important to you. Or, if you don't care about brand-name drugs, see if your employer offers a plan covering only generic drugs instead. Choosing a high deductible plan may be smart for some because it typically reduces your monthly premiums, but be prepared to pay the amount of the deductible in the coming year if serious health care needs arise.
4. Carefully review coverage options for adult children. Since 2010, the Affordable Care Act has allowed adult children to retain coverage under a parent's health insurance policy until age 26. This is a valuable coverage option for many young adults, but keep in mind some important caveats. If your adult children live in another state, for example, they may not have access to in-network health care providers, severely restricting their level of coverage. Make sure you know how your adult child's coverage will work and help him or her to find the best coverage option available, even if it means helping them purchase individual health insurance.
5. Consider an HSA rather than an FSA: Many employers offer a high-deductible health plan option with a Health Savings Account (HSA). Some may even contribute to your Health Savings Account for you. Depending upon your level of health care utilization, this may be a savings opportunity because money may be deposited into your HSA on a pre-tax basis and used to pay for unexpected health expenses not covered by your health plan, including deductibles and copayments. If you like your employer-sponsored Flexible Spending Account (FSA) but are frustrated by the new restrictions on contributions in 2013 (limited to $2,500), consider enrolling in an HSA-eligible plan and opening a Health Savings Account. As with FSAs, money can be saved in an HSA on a pre-tax or tax-deductible basis to pay for qualified medical care. Unlike FSAs, the money in your HSA is yours to keep and funds can roll over and grow year-after-year until retirement. The contribution limit for HSAs in 2013 is $3,250 for individual coverage, or $6,450 for family coverage(4).
6. Mix and match, if appropriate: Depending on your own and your family members' health and how much your employer contributes toward dependent coverage, it may be less expensive for certain family members to be insured on a separate, individually-purchased health plan. Work with a licensed agent like eHealthInsurance.com to get free quotes, and do the math on separate policies. Remember, it is still possible to be declined coverage for an individually-purchased health insurance plan based on an applicant's medical history -- so don't cancel or disenroll from any existing line of coverage until you have been approved for a new one.
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