Choosing a health insurance plan can feel anything but simple. There are numerous options and it can feel like a guessing game. But if you understand a few key concepts, you can quickly increase your chances of finding the right plan for your needs. Here are a few tips and pointers to keep in mind:
Consult With Your Doctor
“Before you start your search for the ideal health insurance plan, you may wish to call your doctor first, especially if you plan to keep visiting him or her,” Boost Health Insurance suggests. “Ask which insurers they take as well as what kind of network they operate on. If you get a policy that doesn’t include your physician in their network, you may have to pay hefty out-of-pocket fees to see them or switch to another in-network provider.”
Your doctor – or those in the front office – may also have some advice on what plans you should pursue, given your health history and current outlook. You’ll want to do your own research, but it can help to have as many opinions as possible.
Identify Your Marketplace
One of the first things you should do is identify your marketplace. Does your employer offer health insurance through work, or will you be going another route? The government insurance exchange through the Affordable Care Act is the most common and, well, affordable option. But you can still purchase insurance directly from the insurer or go through one of many different private exchanges.
Understand the Terminology
If you’ve never shopped around for insurance or don’t have much understanding of how it works, the terminology surrounding different plans can be overwhelming. As is the case anytime you buy into something, you need to understand what you’re paying for.
Healthcare.gov has a pretty decent glossary page where they explain what different terms mean – such as copayment, deductible, allowed amount, exemption, and out-of-pocket. There are dozens of similar resources available on other reputable websites as well.
Anticipate Likely Medical Events
Do you have any major medical events that you anticipate happening within the next year? For example, will you be expecting the birth of a child? Are you planning on having surgery to alleviate some sort of chronic pain? Will you be spending a lot on medication? While much of life is unpredictable, you can zero in on a better plan if you’re able to identify some of what you think will happen over the course of the year.
Review Your Monthly Budget
Hopefully, you have a monthly budget where you’re tracking your income and expenses. If you do, you’re already ahead of the game. You know how much wiggle room you have and what you can spend on a health insurance plan. If you don’t have a budget, now is the perfect time to start.
Once you have your budget in place, carefully review it and figure out how different insurance plans affect your personal finances. It may be smart to supplement your plan with a Health Savings Account if your deductible will be high.
Don’t Stress Yourself Out
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to choosing a health insurance plan. Between unique terminology, uncertainty of the future, and financial limitations, picking one plan over another sometimes feels like a guess. But if you take things slow and start researching plans well before you have to make a decision, the entire process will become less stressful and more informative.