Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How to approach the open enrollment period

More than 8 million New Jersey residents with health insurance coverage will soon select or switch their health benefits plan during open enrollment. To prepare, residents should keep several important factors in mind, in order to make the most of their health benefits.

Know your open enrollment dates
Many people do not realize that open enrollment dates vary from person to person, depending on your plan. While most open enrollment periods occur between September and December each year, be sure to check your deadline.

Employers who provide health insurance specify a two-week period between September and December when employees can select their benefits. Those enrolled in Medicare must choose their benefits between October 15 and December 7, while Americans who use the health insurance marketplace have an open enrollment period of November 1–December 15.

Review your options
Every person or family has unique health and budget needs. That’s why it’s important to set some time aside to review your options. At the very least, everyone planning to participate in open enrollment should check to see if any of their benefits will change next year.

Health care consumers should also pay attention to more than just the monthly premium. It’s important to fully understand any out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copays and coinsurance. If you’re not completely sure of these terms, don’t feel so bad. According to our recent survey, only 9 percent of survey respondents could successfully define these basic health insurance terms. Here’s a 45-second video that briefly explains these concepts.




Check your network
Even if you don’t make any changes to your health insurance this year, it’s still a good idea to double check if your doctor is still in-network so you don’t experience any surprises after enrollment. If you plan to see a practicing physician outside of a network, make sure you understand how costs may differ, as they will likely be higher.

Also, check if your plan includes 24/7 telehealth services for consultations on minor health issues.  Telehealth – defined as online, or virtual, visits with a doctor over a computer, tablet or mobile phone – is often available to people enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans and group Medicare Advantage plans, and select individual Medicare Advantage plans. Virtual visits provide convenient and affordable access to care for minor medical issues, including allergies, bronchitis and seasonal flu.

Additional benefits
Many people are surprised to learn that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services. Many Medicare Advantage plans do, however – often at a $0 monthly premium, beyond the premium for Original Medicare.

Gym memberships and health coaching programs are also great additional benefits covered by some health plans. Many health coaching programs are designed to reward people for making healthy choices to improve their health.


If you need help navigating the open enrollment process, or you’re looking for ways to save on costs, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com. You’ll find articles and videos that will help you make an informed decision about your health care benefits in 2018.