Health Insurance: Renewals
Before renewing a health insurance policy:
- Think about how well your current plan covers your existing needs as well as any needs you can project for the coming year.
- Check to see whether there is a plan that would be better for your particular needs. Articles in "To Learn More" include information about alternative sources of health care coverage which are available despite your health condition. They also provide information about how to evaluate the alternatives.
If you are going to renew an existing policy, do not assume that the coverage you have now will be the same coverage next year. Watch for changes - especially changes in the fine print you may not notice but which can cost you a lot of money.
Some items to watch for include:
- Premium changes
- Changes in co-pay or co-insurance. For example:
- An increase in the amount for particular services such as a doctor visit or hospital stay.
- An additional co-payment for services received in a hospital.
- A shift from a co-payment in hospital from a fee for each stay to a fee for each day.
- Times when co-insurance is in effect rather than a flat payment. Co-insurance generally costs more than a flat amount.
- Amount of the deductible.
- Changes in drug coverage. For example:
- The amount you have to pay for your drugs, including drugs that are moved from a list that costs you one amount to a list which costs more.
- Whether your drugs are on the approved list.
- Separate charges for drugs injected in a doctor's office.
- If your plan includes a list of doctors you can see, is your doctor still on the list? Your preferred hospital?
If your spouse/partner and/or dependents could be covered under a spouse's/partner's coverage, do a fresh comparison to find out whether it is worth switching coverage to the other policy instead of your own.
- If you have a tax advantage health plan, look for changes in the coming year. For example, in 2011 pretax flexible-spending accounts used to cover extra health expenses can no longer be used for over-the-counter drugs unless a doctor writes a special prescription.
- Do what you can to use remaining funds in a Flexible Spending Account, or other account in which you will lose remaining funds which will be forfeited if not used by the end of the year. The Survivorship A to Z document about Flexible Spending Accounts includes tips on how to do that.