4 questions to help you choose the right health insurance

(BPT) - Your options for health care and dental plans can feel overwhelming. Dozens of plans and many variables can affect your decision, which is why it’s worth your time to find the option that best fits your individual or family needs.

“We will devote hours of painstaking research to other choices that impact our quality of life, like buying a car, home or even a TV, but we might enroll in the same health plan year after year without shopping at all,” said John C. Patrick, national vice president of sales for GEHA (Government Employees Health Association). Not all plans are the same, and you and your family’s needs may change year to year. Why not take time to shop?

The difference between the lowest and highest annual premium for health plans can be thousands of dollars. And 10 percent or more of your annual spending may go to plan premiums, according to reports from The Commonwealth Fund. That means you could save a hefty chunk of change simply by taking the time to compare health plans. As you review your options for 2020 there are questions you can ask yourself to help choose the best fit.

1) What are next year’s potential health needs?

Before you select, think about what your health patterns are and if you know what may already be on the horizon. Are any surgeries planned, do you or a family member require regular medication, are you at a high risk for a health issue that might require testing, are you planning to have a baby? If there are high medical needs, it’s likely a higher level of coverage may also be needed.

2) Does your coverage match your lifestyle?

Living a single, on-the-go lifestyle may point to a different plan than if you are married with children. One plan may allow for picking up prescriptions at a more convenient location compared to another. It’s also important to look at what wellness programs are available along with the availability of tools like virtual or on-demand care that can save on surprise visits to the emergency room.

3) Are any new plans offered?

Some health carriers are changing their benefits to offer more prevention and wellness focused plans, while others are adding benefits like pediatric dental coverage or contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA). It all depends what your carrier options are and what your employer offers. For example, federal employees will have two new health plans available this year, Elevate and Elevate Plus from GEHA, that focus on convenient and flexible care for on-the-go lifestyles, with an emphasis on innovative digital tools.

4) Which plan fits?

Don’t be afraid to crunch the numbers to see where you get the most for your money. It may be smart to go with an HSA that puts money away for later use for things like braces or glasses. Or maybe you need a plan with lower monthly premiums and predictable out-of-pocket costs. The key is to examine all the angles: Cost, coverage, provider network and convenience. Knowing your options will help you find the plan that’s right for you.

For federal employees, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provides a comparison tool as a resource for shopping and understanding what is and is not included in each benefit plan. It is updated with the 2020 Federal Employee Health Benefit plans.

A quality health plan helps you achieve the health you need to live the life you want. The right plan is out there — you just need to shop to find it.