Health insurance renewal is like an annual checkup.
Every year during open enrollment, you review your current benefits, consider any health changes you experienced in the past year and assess your financial situation.
Renewing health insurance is about making sure you are on the best plan possible for your future health needs. Ask yourself these questions:
- Will my current plan meet my needs for next year?
Although cost is an important issue, quality of care is 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.
And even if you are happy with your current plan, it’s a good idea to review your plan benefits. Health plan benefits can change from one year to the next.
“Costs for services could go up or go down,” says Don Truong, manager of individual and family plans at Sharp Health Plan. “When you review your benefits, you also want to make sure that your personal information is up to date.” For example, if you have moved or changed your email address.
Also, if you decide to make changes to your coverage for next year and you’ve opted for automatic payments, check to see that your payments scheduled for next year reflect the correct premium amount.
- Do you qualify for any financial assistance?
Financial assistance amounts change every year. Use Covered California’s “Shop and Compare” tool to find out if you qualify for help to lower your health care costs.
If you had a major financial change in 2018, you may qualify for Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal is a program that provides free or low-cost health coverage for individuals and families with limited income. It offers a similar set of benefits as other health insurance plans.
- Do you expect to use a lot of health care services next year?
Make sure your policy covers you for services you need in the near future.
“Are you planning to have any surgeries or grow your family in the next year? If so, choose a plan that will meet your needs and keep your out-of-pocket costs lower,” says Truong. Also, look at other value-added services on your plan like health 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. “Check and double-check that your doctor of choice is in-network with the plan you choose,” says Truong.
Nothing will help you more when renewing your health insurance than becoming an informed consumer. Covered California reports quality ratings of its health insurance companies every year, as a way to help consumers get better care at affordable prices. See the current quality ratings at coveredca.com. You can also check their website after Oct. 1, when the new ratings will be released.
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.
Still feeling unsure about your health insurance options? Truong recommends, “Get help. Work with someone who understands how it works and who can offer guidance according to your financial needs and your health care needs.”
From October 2018 through January 2019 , Sharp Health Plan will host health insurance seminars and Covered California personalized enrollment workshops with certified enrollment counselors on-site to answer your questions about health insurance — for free.
Reminder: Open enrollment will begin Oct. 15, 2018, and will end on Dec. 15, 2018. For coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2019, you must renew by Dec. 15, 2018.
This story was updated in September 2018 to reflect new dates.