Open enrollment season is coming up really soon. I just got the e-mail from Duke HR that outlined the choices I’ll need to wrestle with. Medicare’s open enrollment starts on October 15th. Covered California opens up their enrollment period on the 15th as well for the individual market. Healthcare.gov will run their open enrollment starting on November 1st. January 1 is the most common start date for employer sponsored insurance so corporate open enrollments are going into high gear now.
There are a lot of questions that someone going into open enrollment needs to ask as they make their decisions:
- What are the choices being offered?
- Am I or my family member(s) guaranteed to run up a certain level of costs or am I only worried about getting hit by a surprise?
- How important is our current set of doctors/hospitals?
- If something bad happens do I have a preference for certain docs and places?
- How much is the trade-off between monthly premiums and out of pocket costs
Duke has a very small, curated set of choices. There are four health insurance choices with three networks and fairly low variation in benefit configurations. There are three dental plans and a vision plan. This is an easy set of choices. I am fairly certain that I am going to be perplexed at some point though.
Some counties on the ACA have a single insurer offering sixteen different Silver plans in 2018. Other counties have over one hundred plans from half a dozen insurers. Medicare Advantage has dozens of options in some counties from multiple insurers. Medicare Part D drug plans are frequently numerous.
Choosing insurance is hard. The best advice that I can give to you is to ask for help and take your time. Lay out your objectives and constraints. Lay out what trade-offs you are comfortable making and then knock out the easy failures and then think about the plans that are meeting your minimal standards. When I buy insurance, I acknowledge to myself that I probably won’t choose an optimal choice but I should be able to choose a satisficing choice.
Picking an insurance plan is tough so accept that fact and don’t be scared of that fact.