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Trade Talk: Now's the time to make prudent health choices

Open enrollment for most employer-sponsored health insurance plans is under way or nearing, and we all need to make good choices because mistakes can cost thousands of dollars.
by Paula Burkes Published: October 10, 2012

All this is to say: Do your homework; don't automatically enroll in last year's plan without first making side-by-side comparisons. Given your claims experience from last year, electing a plan with a higher deductible may be your best fiscal choice. Aetna and other providers have calculators on their websites.

With health care reform, this year we're all to receive a Summary of Benefits and Coverage form from insurers to compare, theoretically anyway, plans apples to apples. To offset increasing health care costs, six of 10 employers are expected to increase premiums, co-pays and deductibles, according to industry reports.

On Sunday, with health reform mandates a little more than a year away, I plan to write about employers' health plan choices. Meanwhile, workers lucky enough to have employer-sponsored health care should heed the following tips, industry experts say:

• Be sure current physicians and area hospitals are in your elected plan's network.

• Review pre-existing condition exclusions, prior authorization requirements and annual limits.

• Check prescriptions you take against the list of each plan's approved drugs for co-pay variations.

• List premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays, coinsurance, deductibles, specialists and benefits for each health, vision and dental plan.

• See if the cost for dependent coverage has increased. Some employers are raising costs now that coverage is available for dependents through age 26.

• Take advantage of tax-favored flexible spending accounts (FSAs), which employees can use to pay deductibles, co-pays, dental care and more. Health reform limits contributions, starting in January, to $2,500. You can save about 30 percent on the money you put aside. My daughter needs braces, so a $2,500 contribution to my FSA is a no-brainer for me.

Here's to simple health care choices for you and yours.

by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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