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When is The Right Time To Learn About Health Insurance?

By David Bakke

what you need to know about health insuranceNumerous times in the recent past, I have come to learn things about my employer-based health insurance policy that I wish I would have known before. I recently found out the hard way that the deductibles on my policy are tracked separately for each covered member, that my prescription drug plan leaves a lot to be desired, and that there are a lot of procedures that are not covered that I assumed would have been. Put simply, I have recently been hit with a lot of sobering news about the health plan that I signed up for. After calming down a bit, and after getting over feeling like an idiot, I began to examine the problem.

The Question

Why is there so much that I don’t know about something as important as my health insurance coverage?

The answer was amazingly elementary. If you think about it, most of our health care decisions are made right after starting a new job. During this time, there are about a million other things going on that need our attention. We are buying new clothes, meeting new bosses, and making new impressions, among lots of other things. Also, in addition to all of the paperwork that we need to fill out regarding our health insurance, we’re also filling out forms for 401K plans, taxes, and direct deposit information.

The True Problem

I realized that the core of the problem is that some of the most important decisions about my family’s health coverage are made in between learning about the new employee break room to meeting my new bosses to filling out lots of other forms related to my new job. It’s easy to see why I am so ignorant about my own health coverage. There’s too much other stuff going on.

The Solution

Since I can’t know anything about the next health plan that will come my way, I can at least learn a lot about health insurance in general. I can also review my current coverage selections for the next time there is an option to change with my current employer, which is usually once or twice per year.

Among other things, they are:

  • The differences between the main options for health care: HMO, PPO, and POS.
  • The pros and cons of both long-term and short-term disability insurance.
  • What my spouse’s benefits are. This way, I won’t be paying for something I’m already covered for.

Also, there are some things that I am going to do now so that I am ready for the next “open enrollment” period at work, and so I can adjust my current coverage to where it really needs to be. They are:

  • Comparing the plans available to me in more detail.
  • Comparing premiums, as the lowest one is not always the cheapest plan.
  • Identifying loopholes, if I can, so they don’t blindside me later on.

In Conclusion…

The task of choosing the right health insurance plan for you and your family is a very important decision to make in life. And it is certainly not one that should be made without gathering a lot of information first. Rather than trying to make all of these decisions in the break room on day one at your new job, I think you will benefit both yourself and your family to do some research on the topic now, so you know that you’re making the right decision when the time comes.

(photo credit: calliope)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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Comments

  • http://www.castocreationsjewelry.blogspot.com megscole64

    Well, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but you should also ask your employer if they offer Aflac. (Yes I am an Aflac agent…full disclosure and all that.)

    The employer can save money on payroll taxes. Employees can also save money on their taxes with pre-tax deductions. I know a LOT of companies are switching from their traditional major medical to HSAs and/or lowering the coverage they provide in order to keep premiums reasonable. One way to help make up for the cuts is to offer supplemental programs.

    I always picked my healthcare plans based on my historical doctor (We have Group Health) and we’ve had Aflac along with our traditional major medical for over 8 years. If we had to buy individual healthcare (thankfully we don’t yet) we would raise our deductibles to keep the premiums down. The costs are only going up for major medical. :(

  • david

    Megscole

    That’s some great stuff–sounds like a win-win for the employer and employee.

    Thanks for weighing in…

    • http://www.castocreationsjewelry.blogspot.com megscole64

      Thanks David. Sorry if I sound too sales-persony. :) I am new with Aflac but I’ve loved their programs for years. Plus…we have a DUCK! lol Happy 4th!

      • David Bakke

        Meg

        You don’t sound too sales-persony at all!!

        Good luck with them and Happy 4th to you too!

        • http://www.castocreationsjewelry.blogspot.com megscole64

          Thank you! Happy 4th to you too!!!

  • http://medicalaidsite.co.za/ Medical Aid Site SA

    Finding the most suitable health insurance plan isn’t always easy, but it is definitely worth doing some research before committing to anything. If you’re really stuck, however, you could seek the help of a health insurance broker who may be able to advise you on which plan would best meet your needs.

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