by WEX Health
If you’ve noticed that you’re being bombarded with emails and robocalls about your health insurance coverage lately, well, ’tis the season. Open enrollment, the annual period when you can apply for or make changes to your health insurance plan, is upon us. For the federal government’s Marketplace plans, the enrollment period runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15—although some states give you more time—and many employer-sponsored plans use similar dates.
Here are some of the basics you need to know:
Ignore the spam.
Hang up on those robocalls; many of them are scammers trying to sell you substandard plans. (Do, of course, pay attention to communications from your existing health insurance company or the federal government’s Marketplace emails.)
Open enrollment season is also the holiday season, and Dec. 15 can sneak up on you. Find out when the deadline is for your state and desired plan, because generally you can’t sign up or make changes once you’re outside the open enrollment period. (There are some circumstances that qualify you to sign up at other times, such as if you got married, had a child, lost your employer-sponsored health insurance, got divorced, moved or had a family member die.) When you sign up during the open enrollment period and pay your first premium, your coverage begins Jan. 1, 2020.
Review your existing plan.
It’s tempting to just renew your old plan, but you should take a few minutes to consider what you paid for healthcare and health insurance in the previous year. You might find, for instance, that you could save money with a lower-premium, higher-deductible plan—more on that in a moment. Take time to consider whether you were happy with your plan last year, and whether you anticipate any additional medical expenses in the coming year—like a new baby, or braces for your teenager.
During open enrollment, you can also add, remove or change other types of health coverage, including vision, dental and disability insurance plans. And, if your employer offers them, you may be able to add an FSA (flexible savings account) or HSA (health savings account)—more on those in a moment, too.
Know your options.
If you don’t have the opportunity to get health insurance through your employer, you have several other options. The best place to start is your state’s health insurance marketplace; you can sign up at HealthCare.gov. (Depending on your family size and income, it’s possible that these plans will be cheaper than what your employer offers.) You can also buy directly from an insurance company or from a health insurance agent.
As promised, here’s some important information to know if you’re leaning toward saving money with a high-deductible health plan (sometimes called an HDHP). If you’re covered by an HDHP, you’re eligible for an often-misunderstood but tax-advantaged benefit called a health savings account.
- The idea is that you can use some of the money you’re saving with lower premiums to contribute to your HSA. (An added plus is that many employers kick in funds to employees’ health savings account; be sure to find out.)
- There actually are three levels of tax advantages with HSAs: The money you contribute is pre-tax, you won’t pay taxes when you withdraw money from the account to pay for qualifying health expenses, and the account earns interest that’s also not taxed.
- Best of all, the money in your HSA account rolls over every year, so the growing next egg can be used as a long-term savings vehicle. (FSAs are a similar type of account, but your money does not roll over.)
HSAs are a great choice for many families: You get the benefit of lower insurance premiums but also have a security net to cover the deductible if you get hit with an unexpected medical expense. For 2020, the minimum deductible for a plan to be considered an HDHP is $1,400 for an individual and $2,800 for a family. On the HealthCare.gov Marketplace, you’ll see a blue “HSA-eligible” notation on any plans that qualify.
To give you a better idea of the kinds of expenses that are covered by a health savings account or flexible savings account, see this post. In addition, plenty more information, helpful downloads, and a link to replay the HSA Day 2019 broadcast featuring three “people like you” who share their tips about health savings accounts can be found at www.lovemyhsa.com or by following the #LOVEMYHSA hashtag on your favorite social media feed(s).
Happy enrollment season!