INTELLIGENT HEALTH INSURANCE

Source: SUSAN REEDY

If you're lucky enough to have health insurance through an employer, chances are your open enrollment period is fast-approaching. Choosing wisely can save you and your family a significant amount of money. But the process can be so frustrating that many stay with the status-quo, passing up changes that could make a difference in costs and coverage. Here are some tips to make the open enrollment a bit more bearable:

Know What You've Actually Spent And Used: If your health insurance carrier or employer doesn't itemize your expenses for you (many do), look through your pay stubs, canceled checks and any doctors', lab or hospital bills and estimate your expenses for the year. What would you change it you could? Did you have access to all the services you needed or did you pay for some you never used? Consider if your health care needs will change this year. Will you be needing additional tests, surgeries or services? Do you or members of your family need to see any additional specialists? Do you anticipate a new or changing diagnosis that will require additional care? It's very important to foresee any services you'll need covered in your family's future.

Fully Understand All Offered Options For Both You And Your Spouse: Most large employers give employees the option of more than one health plan. Often you are asked to chose between an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) or PPO (Preferred Provider Organization). With an HMO, you must use preapproved doctors, hospitals and labs (called "in-the-network" with an HMO.) HMO's rarely cover out-of-network care. With a PPO, you are not required to use "in network" providers, but typically if you go "out of network," you must pay a percentage of the costs. Smaller companies sometimes only offer PPOS to employees, but allow both in and out-of-network options.