Before You Renew Your Health Insurance, Look Out for These Changes


It’s officially fall. Which means pumpkin spice, football—and open enrollment.

If you buy your health insurance through the federal exchange—and, if so, we feel for you—open enrollment (a.k.a. the only time during the year you can enroll in a plan unless you experience a qualifying life event) runs from November 1 to December 15. And if you get insurance through work, many companies offer an open enrollment period around this time of year, too.

It’s tempting to just re-up and avoid plowing through pages of policy details. But resist. Insurance plans rarely stay exactly the same from year to year, so it’s worth taking a closer look. In particular, keep an eye out for changes in co-pays or deductibles, out-of-pocket costs and even the network of providers, says Joe Ellis, senior vice president at CBIZ Employee Services Organization. Then do this:

1. Consider all your health care needs.

Estimate next year’s health care needs, then make sure they align with your policy’s co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs.

If you’re young, relatively healthy and don’t expect any big health care events—like childbirth or elective surgery—you may not need as much coverage as someone with more comprehensive needs. In that case, a high-deductible plan with lower monthly premiums could be a cost-saving option. Just make sure you’ve got money saved in case you get really sick, or injured, and end up paying that deductible.

And don’t forget about add-on coverage, like dental, vision, chiropractic or other health services. If your plan doesn’t include them, find out how much it costs to add them.

2. Double-check the network.

Some types of health insurance allow you to see virtually any provider; others limit your access to only certain hospitals and practitioners—so review your plan’s network to make sure the providers you want are covered. Visiting an out-of-network doctor can cost you hundreds more. Similarly, check the insurance company’s formulary (a list of covered prescription drugs) to make sure it covers medications you depend on—and see if there are options like mail-order pharmacies or rebates that will lower your out-of-pocket costs.

3. Reassess your HSA and FSA needs.

If you have a plan with a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA), look at whether your—or your employer’s—contributions were enough to cover your out-of-pocket costs this year. If you came up short, but haven’t yet hit the maximum contribution amount, up it for 2018.

Not too much, though, if you’ve got an FSA. You’ll lose leftover funds at the end of the year if you don’t spend them. HSA money, though, can be rolled over and will continue to grow year over year. Also remember: You can use FSA money on everything from glasses to flu shots to high-SPF sunscreen, so now’s a good time to stock up if you’ve got a big balance.

4. Don’t forget to sign up for other benefits.

Many employers offer wellness programs and incentives to improve your health, too. Some offer health care insurance premium discounts for getting annual health risk assessments. Others offer rewards for completing a smoking cessation program. Many offer discounts to local gyms, or even free memberships. Some even provide stress reduction programs. Participating in benefits like these can pay off in more ways than one.