Tis the season for health insurance shopping – falalalala lala Ugh.
Open season, that period when we can change our insurance plans for the coming year can be exceedingly frustrating. There is so much to consider – cost, providers, covered services, deductibles. It can be daunting to gather and compare this information.
One way to start corralling and comparing plan details is to use the online tools provided by some major insurance companies and independent websites. Among carriers that offer robust online shopping tools are Kaiser, United Healthcare, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Cigna. Oddly, these very helpful assets are sometimes hidden on the company sites. You may need to search using keywords like “quality,” “cost” or “compare.”
Among the most useful independent sites is Amino.com.
Using these tools, you can gather information (beyond the monthly premium level) that’s vital to making an informed decision. This includes deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance payments for doctor visits, hospital stays and tests. Invest some serious time in this research.
You can also use many of these online tools to plan for possible future health expenditures. Many tests and procedures vary wildly in cost, depending on the provider and/or hospital. MRIs, joint replacements and childbirth are good examples. Your plan’s website might provide at least broad information on those costs. So, if a doctor has said a hip replacement is in your near future, you can get a range of what that might cost out-of-pocket and how much will be covered by your plan.
Most every plan site includes a list of participating physicians, specialists and hospitals. This is a good starting point to determining if your preferred professional is in-network. But don’t rely on the website. Call your doctor and/or hospital to confirm that they accept the plan you are considering.
Quality of care is another element to consider as you shop for insurance. A cheap doctor is no bargain if he provides poor treatment. The best plan website help you judge quality with patient ratings or data about complications. Again, don’t depend entirely on insurance company websites for this information. Look for other unbiased sources, such as Consumer Reports, which rates hospitals.
There is no escaping the pain of escalating insurance premiums. They are out of control. I just hope the Trump administration can figure a way to bring some sanity to the situation. But by using these online tools to do some homework, you can ease the heartburn of deciding which insurance company will offer the most gain for the least pain.