Choosing the best health plan for you and your family takes time and a little bit of work. But before getting lost in the details of each plan, sit down and take a close look at your family’s medical needs and expenses.
What medical services will you and your family need in the next year? Not sure? Take a look back at your health expenses in the previous year and use it as a guideline.
Did you visit the doctor often? Or just for standard check-ups? Does someone you love have asthma or another condition or disease that requires routine attention and care? Did you spend a lot on prescription drugs or hospital visits?
Tally up all of your medical expenses over the past year and look at the costs. Take the time to go through each month thoroughly. You want to have a firm grasp of your actual health care expenses before choosing a plan. Once you know just how much you spent on health care in the past year, it will give you a good estimate of what you are likely to spend on health care in the upcoming year.
And, if there is an additional health care cost on the horizon, a possible operation, or medical procedure that may be needed, factor that into your future medical costs as well.
Once you know your medical costs and expenses and what you spent your money on, it’s time to look at health plans.
Finding the Right Plan
Some health plans offer greater choice of medical providers and tend to cost more. These more traditional health plans are called indemnity plans.
Indemnity plans tend to have higher out-of-pocket expenses and higher deductibles. After paying an annual deductible, most indemnity plans cover a percentage of a patient’s medical costs, often 80 percent. Most indemnity plans come with a cap of how much you would pay as the patient in an upcoming year.
With other health plans, you have fewer health provider choices. And you’ll need to select physicians within a specific network of care providers but the costs also tend to be lower.
These types of plans are called managed care plans, and include preferred provider organizations, (PPOs) or health maintenance organizations (HMOs). With a managed care plan, your choice of doctors and hospitals are more limited but you also tend to have lower out-of-pocket costs and lower premiums.
Of course, if you can find a doctor that you like within an affordable network of physicians, it can be the best of both worlds.
Managed care plans are available in many employer health plans and through HealthCare.gov.
Think About Your Savings
Looking at your own personal savings is another important aspect of choosing a health plan.
Higher deductible plans mean you’ll pay more money out of your own pocket before the benefits and coverage of your health plan kicks in, but you’ll also pay a lower premium or payment amount each month.
Weigh the pros and cons of paying a little more each month out of your own pocket, with a lower deductible plan, but paying less if a serious medical condition or expense should occur. Would a higher deductible or lower deductible plan work best for your family?
An Uncertain Future
For people with health plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace, the future is not clear.
The new President-elect pledged to repeal Obamacare, but an all-out repeal will be difficult, without having 60 votes in the U.S. Senate. And Republicans have 51 seats, with a seat representing Louisiana to be decided in a run off election in December.
Sections of the Affordable Care Act that will be difficult to repeal or change are the reforms made to the Medicare program, the provision that allows young adults to be on their parents policies until the age of 26, and the provision that requires insurers to sell policies to everyone, including people with pre-existing health conditions.
Under the Affordable Care Act, those under the age of 26 may be added or stay on a parent’s health insurance policy even if the young person gets married, does not live with a parent, is not financially dependent on a parent, is attending college, or is eligible for an employer plan. And this may be a good option for families if other areas of the law are repealed.
There are portions of the Affordable Care Act that can be changed or eliminated through a process called reconciliation, and if Republicans vote along party lines in 2017 they have enough votes to make those changes.
These include ending the expansion of Medicaid coverage, eliminating the federal subsidies that make it more affordable to buy health care through the Marketplace and doing away with tax penalties for not buying health insurance. They also could eliminate a number of taxes that were created to pay for the Affordable Care Act under the Obama administration.
These were all provisions of a bill passed by Republicans in 2015 in the House and Senate and vetoed by President Obama.
When and if those changes take place is unclear. One bill proposed by Republicans in 2015, called for the end of the federal subsidies assisting people buying insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace at the end of 2017. The deadline for enrolling in 2017 health plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace is Thursday, December 15.
Laws typically take a long time to change and implement, so it is possible there may be a year or more before changes to the Affordable Care Act take effect. But nothing is certain other than the new President’s plan to take apart Obamacare and replace it with something else.
Trump released an outline of his health care plans on Nov. 11. He has a very different plan for health care coverage in America, including a return to high-risk insurance pools and more Health Savings Accounts.
According to Greatagain.gov, “A Trump Administration will work with Congress to repeal the (Affordable Care Act) and replace it with a solution that includes Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and return the historic role in regulating health insurance to the States. The Administration’s goal will be to create a patient-centered healthcare system that promotes choice, quality and affordability with health insurance and healthcare and take any needed action to alleviate the burdens imposed on American families and businesses by the law.”
The outline also calls for allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines and re-establish high risk insurance pools “for individuals who have significant medical expenses and who have not maintained continuous coverage.”