Read the fine print. Workers have a responsibility to understand their choices during open enrollment, so they can minimize their own healthcare costs, says Gibbs. “If employees miss the deadline for open enrollment, their company might re-enroll them with the same coverage.Â But costs are likely to be higher next year, so employees could see their premiums go up significantly, even though they didn’t make any changes,â€ he says.
Shop around. Gibbs adds that it may also be a good idea for employees to look for an individual plan, even if they qualify for group coverage.Â “This year, a lot of employees are finding that it’s less expensive to go out and just get a [private] plan for their spouse and kids, for example, instead of getting that coverage from their employer’s plan,â€ he says. An added benefit of a private plan is that you don’t automatically lose coverage if you lose your job. (See sidebar for alternatives for the unemployed).
Unemployed? Look into COBRA and COBRA alternatives. The Recovery Act provides for a 65% subsidy of health insurance premiums for people who are in between jobs and eligible for COBRA coverage. That subsidy is due to expire at the end of 2009, though legislation has been introduced to extend it into 2010.
Whether the subsidy is extended or not, some people who are in between jobs may find that other insurance alternatives are better suited for their situation, Kiner says.Â For people who are looking for a COBRA alternative, she suggests contacting the provider of their former employer’s group plan. “Talk first to the people that you and your family trusted for health coverage before,â€ she says.
If you’re unable to obtain a private health insurance plan, contact your state department of insurance to see if you or your dependents qualify for state coverage insurance.Â These plans are typically for low-income individuals, or people who have difficulty obtaining insurance because of pre-existing conditions.