It’s Change-Your-Benefits Time

Stethoscope and money

When you think “open enrollment,” you probably think lots of paperwork and bored health insurance reps wandering the office. So it’s not surprising that 89% of all workers default to the same plan every year.

Just make sure you’re not one of them. Considering that the average woman will spend over $350,000 on health care expenses in her lifetime, you need to choose the smartest plan this—and every—fall.

Don’t just go for cheap.
Look past the monthly payments to see what your real costs will be in terms of the big three: deductible, co-insurance, and out-of-pocket maximum. Raising these amounts will lower your premium, sure, but also think about the following:

Can you afford to pay that deductible in one shot if you have to? Is there enough in your pocket to cover the yearly max in a worst-case scenario? Do you visit the doctor infrequently enough that pricey co-pays won’t add up?

Decide whether saving a few extra bucks a month is worth the risk of a potentially big payout this year.

Pick a plan that helps you save.
Employers are increasingly offering Flexible Spending and Health Savings Accounts (FSAs and HSAs) to employees with high-deductible plans. Both allow you to sock away medical funds before taxes (awesome), but FSAs are “use it or lose it,” while HSA balances roll over every year.

These plans come with conditions and restrictions, but the lower premium that comes with a higher deductible plan could be worth it. Plus, your savings will offset some or all of the deductible cost anyway.

Out of the Box
Under the new Affordable Care Act, many preventative services (like mammograms and well baby visits, as well as contraception) are free—no matter what your deductible is.

Take your temp. Do you have health insurance?