How To Choose A Health Insurance Plan During Open Enrollment

The open enrollment period for your health insurance plan comes once every year, usually during the fall. The corresponding paperwork typically generates as much enthusiasm as yearly tax forms. But don't be tempted to just put a checkmark next to your current plan. With so many insurers and employers raising health insurance premiums and scaling back benefits, you need to know how your health plan stacks up against any others offered to you at work.

After all, you're stuck with your decision for another year. For example, if you don't know that your plan is reducing coverage for your brand-name prescription allergy drug, you'll be in for a bad surprise when the pharmacist asks you to hand over $180 for 100 tablets rather than your usual $25 co-payment. You won't be able to go back to your benefits administrator and ask to switch to a plan that will pay for your prescription.

Keep in mind that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes these rules affecting health plans:include:

•   You can keep your adult children on your health plan until they are age 26.

•   Plans cannot exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions for children under age 19.

•   Lifetime limits on health insurance coverage are not allowed.

•   Caps on annual coverage are being phased out.

•   A wide range of preventive care for men, women and children is fully covered, which means you pay nothing out of pocket - no co-pay or deductible - when you receive those services. For more details, see 6 health insurance freebies for pregnant women and new moms.

The following information will help you make the best decision during the open enrollment process.

What types of changes can I make to my health insurance plan during open enrollment?

If you're not currently enrolled in a health insurance plan, you may enroll at this time. If you are enrolled, you may switch plans (if this an option), correct inaccurate information, or add eligible dependents, such as a spouse and children not previously covered.