No matter who you are and what you do for a living, chances are you are already asked to make too many decisions. Today, everything from the privacy settings of your social media accounts to the menu in your neighborhood coffee shop, is stacked thick with choices that are often confusing and anxiety inducing. This is especially true in a field like health insurance where we all want the best care for our families and ourselves, with the security of knowing that we are covered in the case of an emergency. Unfortunately, choosing the right health insurance plan may seem easier said than done. Given the glossary of terms that are sometimes difficult to understand, your eyes may glaze over and discomfort may sink in as you consider the choices. There’s no reason for any of that: to make an informed decision and choose the best plan for you and your loved ones, simply ask yourself the following questions.
1. Am I eligible for a subsidy?
Under the Affordable Care Act, low- and middle-income people buying insurance are eligible for government subsidies that can reduce the amount you have to pay to the insurance company each month. These subsidies are available to those using the state health care exchanges, if their income is between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. You can determine your eligibility for subsidies by using this tool or by checking directly with health insurance carriers like CareConnect.
2. How frequently does my family need to see a doctor?
We get it, you want the coverage your family needs at an affordable price. To figure out the right balance between coverage and cost, it’s helpful to know about how often your family tends to visit the doctor. That information is important because all health insurance plans involve a trade-off: the lower the premium, the more you pay at the time of the doctor visit for things like out-of-pocket copayments, coinsurance and deductibles. Before you pick a plan, consider the needs of your family: if you are a relatively young and healthy bunch, for example, you may opt for a plan that charges lower premiums and higher deductibles. If you or your family members have chronic conditions and other needs, a higher premium and lower deductible may make more sense.
3. What kind of network do I need?
When you’re considering a plan, check the network of doctors and hospitals that it offers. You may think you want to go with the biggest network you can find – but biggest isn’t necessarily best if you end up paying extra for doctors you won’t use. After all, when it comes to our physicians and caregivers, we tend to think very locally and select people who are part of our community. Just like in real estate, what matters is often “location, location, location.” Because of this, a plan with a narrow network may offer an advantage by giving you access to a limited and carefully curated community of physicians and caregivers at a more modest price tag. Check it out; you may find that the right narrow network has a wide array of physician choices in your area – including your current doctors – at an affordable price.
4. Will I receive good customer service?
Chances are that sooner or later, for one reason or another, you will need to communicate with your insurance provider. You’ll want to ensure that quality customer service is available and hassle-free. This means having rapid access to attentive and knowledgeable representatives who can answer your questions, assist you in finding the right doctor, and help you with whatever billing issue you might have. In a nutshell, you’ll want your insurance provider working as closely as possible with the doctors and hospitals you need. Some carriers will even go as far as helping to make your doctor appointments. Here’s a simple test to judge what kind of customer service you can expect to receive when you call: If the person on the other end answers quickly and is courteous and helpful, you know you’ve got a match.
5. Have I done my homework?
Let’s face it: finding the right insurance plans requires research and due diligence.
As in most things in life, knowledge is power, and being familiar with various insurance providers and what they offer can be a real benefit to making the best decision. Take a few minutes and check the websites of the various companies that serve your area. On CareConnect’s website, for example, you can check out prices and features, see which one works for your family, and even compare their costs to your current plan using their cost calculator.