Open Enrollment Know-How: 3 Tips for Shopping on Exchanges

Open Enrollment Know-How: 3 Tips for Shopping on Exchanges

It may seem like you've got plenty of time to spare before the February 15 deadline to select your 2015 health care coverage rolls around.

But the truth is, picking the best insurance for you isn't something you should put off until 10 p.m. on Valentine's Day.

Your choice has the potential to affect your 2015 budget in a big way—and navigating the health care exchanges isn't always a piece of cake.

To ensure you're using the right criteria to examine each plan, consider these three insurance-shopping tips, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.


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1. Understand Your Options, the federal marketplace, is a good place to start, and can direct you to your state-run site, as well. There, you can compare plans in the five available categories.

Bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans cover anywhere from 60%-90% of your medical expenses, while the catastrophic plan typically only covers you in worst-case scenarios, like serious accidents or illnesses.

It's important to do your research to make sure your plan level corresponds to your specific needs. For instance, if you anticipate frequent visits to the doctor's office next year, a gold plan—which covers about 80% of your costs—may be your best bet. However, if your household size and income qualify you for certain out-of-pocket savings on prescriptions, lab tests and more, you must enroll in a silver plan.

Catastrophic coverage, on the other hand, is only available to those under 30, or who qualify for a hardship exemption.

2. Make Sure Your Doctors Are In-Network

In order to keep their own costs in check, some plan providers limit the number of doctors in their networks.

That's why it's crucial to make sure you've thoroughly researched and are happy with a plan's in-network doctors and hospitals—or else you may end up purchasing a plan that your long-time family physician won't accept.

3. Look for Cost Savings

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 80% of current enrollees could score insurance coverage next year for a monthly premium of just $100 or even less, after tax credits are applied.

And these discounts don't just apply to the lowest-income households: A family of three making less than $79,160 may qualify for decreased monthly premiums.

Translation: Don't hit "buy" until you've confirmed you're getting the best price possible.

RELATED: Health Care Costs Crystal Ball: Expect to Pay More in 2015


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