The Dos and Don'ts of Open Enrollment

With more health insurance options than ever, here’s how to make choices that can save you big-time.

open enrollment doctor

DO look into a higher-deductible plan if you're young and healthy.
Such plans have much lower premiums, potentially saving you $100 to $200 every month. And now the federal government is requiring that most plans offer a free annual well-woman visit (which includes a breast exam, a blood pressure check and a Pap test), even if you haven't met your deductible. Make use of the visit and you probably won't need to spend much more throughout the year.

DON'T automatically get vision and dental.
If you don't wear contacts or glasses (or if your specs work fine), vision coverage of $15 per month might not be worth it. Instead, pay for a basic eye exam (usually about $75) with money in your pretax health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). Same goes for a teeth cleaning.

DO consider a higher-premium plan if you have a chronic illness.
Especially if it's an illness that requires frequent procedures, lots of medications or both. Do some math first: Estimate a year's worth of health-care-visit and prescription costs, then add in the annual cost of the premiums. Calculate that for both the high- and low-deductible plans, and you might be surprised which is cheaper.

DON'T forget to check if your medications are covered.
Most plans have some sort of prescription coverage, but you can't assume every drug you're prescribed is under that umbrella. For example, certain plans do not cover the antidepressant Abilify, which can cost as much as $1,000 per month out of pocket.


Sources: Carolyn McClanahan, MD, director of financial planning at Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla.; and Robert Wergin, MD, a family physician in Milford, Neb., and president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians