It seems like every year around this time I get a huge packet of information in the mail from our insurance company. Sometimes with the information overload it can be hard to select the right plan, or even find enough time to sit down and read through the plethora of information. However, as money is often tight, selecting the proper benefit combination is crucial. It can dramatically affect your out of pocket costs and your monthly premiums.
1. Know what you need. Take a look at last year's medical expenses. How much did you spend? Did you meet your deductible? Evaluating whether or not your current plan met your needs is an important first step.
2. Know what you get. Some health plans include wellness benefits like discounted gym memberships or massages. Take advantage of these services! You're paying for them.
3. Know what's NOT covered. Just as it's important to know what you get with your plan, it's also important to know what types of things are not covered. I learned the hard way that some of my routine lab work was not considered routine by the insurance company and ended up having to pay $1000 out of pocket. Trust me - if I had known it was not covered, I would not have had it done. Good information to know.
4. Open an FSA. A flexible spending account is a great way to pay for your medical expenses. Most of the money in the FSA is exempt from taxes. You can even have your employer deduct it automatically. If you're going to be paying for your medical bills anyway, then you might as well take advantage of the tax-free benefits. (Just a note: starting in 2013 there will be a $2500 annual cap on FSA contributions)
5. Can you get paid to workout? Some insurance plans offer incentives for healthy lifestyles that include exercise and good nutrition. (After all, if you're healthier, they have to pay for fewer medical claims). It just might be the motivation you need to get off the couch and get moving.
Even though the information seems a bit overwhelming at times, there is certainly a huge benefit in understanding what your plan includes. Education helps you make informed decisions as to the best fit for your family. Everyone is different and so is each medical plan. Get the most for your money - plan ahead to devote a bit of time to choosing your health benefits. You can do it in less than an hour. It's definitely worth the investment.
I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Aetna blogging program, making me eligible to get a $30 Target gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.