The most confusing part of getting my first job out of college wasn't getting used to the structured days, it was deciphering the health care plan options that were offered in my benefits package. Years later, the choices make a little more sense but they still aren't 100 percent clear, and one thing is for sure: health care is more expensive. Hewitt Associates estimates that total health care spending will cost eight percent more than it was last year, and not paying attention to whether or not your plan is best for you could mean you are spending more than necessary. CNN Money broke down how to evaluate the situation so you can make changes to your plan for 2009 if needed.
- Separate the apples from the oranges. More companies are offering the option of high-deductible plans with an HSA. This type of plan will likely save you money while you're healthy, but could end up costing you more when you are sick. Make sure you can afford the deductible before opting for this plan.
- Narrow the oranges. Are your doctors in-network? And would you ever want to go out of network? If you want to keep your current provider, call your doctors to see if they'll accept the plans you're considering. Note that HMO and POS plans usually require a recommendation to see a specialist, so if you're too busy to fit in an extra appointment just to get the referral, a PPO might be a better choice.
Don't miss steps three and four, just read more.
- Zero in on key costs. Make a chart comparing the following costs: Premium, deductible, co-pays and co-insurance, prescription coverage (confirm that the plan covers your current meds), and out-of-pocket maximums.
- Pick your final answer. Don't miss the sign-up deadline. According to Watson Wyatt, more companies are defaulting workers into high-deductible plans instead of their past year's choice. You want a plan that you'll be able to afford no matter your health status.