Look at health insurance renewal as an annual checkup: You review your current benefits, examine any health changes you incurred in the past year and assess your financial situation. For an optimal renewal experience, be sure to ask yourself these questions:
What do you value in a plan?
Although cost is an important issue, quality of care is as essential. Think of how you buy toothpaste. You can find several inexpensive options at the market, but they might not provide a good cleaning or protect your teeth from cavities. Choosing more expensive toothpaste is worth the money. It’s the same as with a health plan.
“My best advice is to look at other factors when selecting a plan. The lowest cost plan may not always be the best choice,” says Don Truong, account executive for individual and family plans at Sharp Health Plan. “You should select a plan that offers access to quality doctors and hospitals.”
Be mindful that rates for Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, will rise next year. In many ways, 2017 will be a transitional year for premium rates in California, mostly because of the end of the Affordable Care Act’s reinsurance, a program that subsidized health care plans enrolling higher-cost individuals.
Do you qualify for special assistance?
If you’ve had a major financial change in 2016, you may qualify for Medi-Cal. It is health coverage that is free or available at a low cost for children and adults with limited income and resources. It offers a similar set of benefits as other health insurance plans.
What is my current stage of life?
Make sure your policy covers you for services you need in the near future.
“Are you planning on having any high-cost procedures in the next year? If so, select a plan that would be more beneficial to your out-of-pocket costs,” says Truong. Also, look at other beneficial services offered like wellness coaching and vision discounts that could help offset higher premium rates.
If you’re on a family plan, consider the new needs of your children. Are they playing sports now? If so, copays may be a more relevant factor to you than in previous years.
Is your current doctor still in the plan’s network?
Doctors can switch plan networks. “Make sure to check and double check that your doctor of choice is in-network with the plan you select,” says Truong.
Nothing will help you more when renewing your health insurance than becoming an informed consumer. Remember, you can only make changes during open enrollment — unless you have a special enrollment qualifying event during the year. And as a word of caution, “If you select the wrong plan, you’ll have to wait till next year’s open enrollment period to correct the mistake,” says Truong.
Reminder: Open enrollment began Nov. 1, 2016, and will end on Jan. 31, 2017. For coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2017, you must renew by Dec. 15, 2016.