Open Enrollment 2019: know your options
Health insurance coverage is about more than just the cost
By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
When shopping around for health insurance during Open Enrollment, patients shouldn’t look solely at which plans are the cheapest. There’s a lot of other considerations that should factor into this important annual decision.
Jeannine Benson, MD, internal medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Edwards medical offices, said patients needs to look at how often they use health care services. How often you see your physician or access care will mean coverage needs will vary “It’s a typical question—how can I get the most out of my coverage? When I hear this question from community members or in my-day-to-day conversations, I urge people to think through what services they find have the biggest impact on their health. In our mountain communities, chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage therapy, or acupuncture might help people with active lifestyles recover quickly,” she said.
Here are some other tips for getting through Open Enrollment with the right plan and for ensuring you’re getting your health care needs met all year long.
Carefully review available insurance plans
If your employer offers health insurance, connect with your human resources department or another appropriate person to ask questions, Benson suggests If you’re looking at buying an individual or family plan, insurance brokers can be a great source for reviewing providers and plans that best meet your needs.
“Far too often, people pick what they think will be the cheapest plan without considering value or what their health care dollar is going toward,” Benson said.
Brokers can also be a resource for information about alternative health care plans. Benson said it’s imperative to be very clear about what these non-traditional plan cover and what they don’t before signing up.
Ask your doctor for advice
Navigating health care options and insurance can be difficult, which is why Benson said patients should talk to their doctors or health providers to see if there are tools they can provide to help them navigate it.
“At Kaiser Permanente, we try to make sure our patients are getting the highest quality care while helping them figure out how to get that care in a way that makes sense, financially,” Benson said. “Your primary care team should be able to help shed more light on how to navigate the complex world of health care and the coverage options available.”
Consider the options
Does your provider offer various options to deliver your health care? If so, you should be weighing these options to best meet your needs, according to Benson.
Kaiser Permanente offers many convenient, virtual services that can eliminate the need for an office visit, thus saving patients time and money, Benson suggests.
“Our registered nurses (RNs) can triage straight forward issues over the phone like urinary tract infections and sinus infections,” Benson said. “We also offer Chat with a Doc, a real-time text conversation which puts you in direct contact with a health care provider to discuss your concerns virtually. We also offer phone visits with providers and other options via kp.org.”
These telehealth options are also great for accessing care, especially in rural communities where travel can be difficult. This access also can help remove the barriers to health care for people who can’t afford to take time off from work.
“Telehealth cannot address every issue, but it can be a starting point to get members where they need to be — right care, right time, right venue,” she said.
Practice preventive care
Open Enrollment is a great time of year to think about preventive care as you weigh various health plans and what they cover. Benson said preventive care is proven to have a positive impact on long-term health.
“Your health care provider should be actively engaging you to get the preventive care that is appropriate for your age and gender,” she said. “This prevention includes immunizations, age and gender specific cancer screening, cardiac risk assessments, diet and exercise counseling, and other healthy living recommendations.”