With health insurance premiums up an average 7 percent for 2013, employees are finding they need to be savvier consumers. Here are seven tips on choosing health insurance and reducing costs:
Make sure you enroll • If you don’t re-enroll in your benefits or are given new plan options, you could end up without coverage for 2013. Check your enrollment dates, often in early November or in the spring, and make sure you sign up.
Pay attention to your insurance costs • Look at three things: your premium cost contributions this year compared to last; your maximum “out-of-pocket,” which is your financial obligation for a catastrophic health issue; and your deductible.
Compare traditional with high-deductible plan options • More employers are offering a high-deductible plan, which generally offers a lower premium. But be prepared to pay the amount of the deductible in the coming year if you have serious health care issues.
Use incentives to reduce costs • “Employees should think about how they can be better consumers with the services a carrier offers,” said Heather Leck, president of Corporate Benefit Advisors in Delray Beach, Fla. Some plans offer a hot line to a nurse or doctor, price checks on tests ordered by a doctor, or where to find the best deal on a prescription.
Set pre-tax dollars aside • Use a flexible spending account either from your employer or a third party, such as a bank, to deposit money to cover health costs not covered by insurance. Find the list of IRS-approved expenses on your health insurer’s website.
Mix and match coverage • Your spouse or domestic partner may have less expensive coverage. Or it may be less expensive for certain family members to be insured on an individually purchased health plan. Note that employer-based plans are more likely to cover pregnancy, according to eHealthInsurance.
Review coverage options for adult children • Since 2010, the health care law has allowed adult children to retain coverage under a parent’s health insurance policy until age 26. But make sure adult children who live in another state have access to your in-network health care providers.