Better quality service, affordability, more benefits and changing health needs are all reasons why people switch their health insurance. Sometimes, though, changing your health plan isn’t your choice. When you start a new job or move to another location, a change in your health insurance may not be up to you. If you aren’t a member of a group health plan and want to change your individual plan, you will have to reapply. Unfortunately, changes in your age and health status can increase your premiums when you re-enroll in a plan.
Wait for the annual open enrollment period. This is the time when you can change your health care insurance coverage for any reason, whether you stay with your current company or change to a new provider. Open enrollment usually occurs in the fall during which time you have 30 days to make changes, which are effective beginning in January.
Contact your insurer or your employer’s human resources department if you experience a qualifying life event that would allow you to make changes under special open enrollment conditions. Marriage or a newborn child is a common qualifying event. Also, you may not have to wait until the open enrollment period if you just want to change your plan and not the provider.
Find out what other insurers have to offer if you’re thinking about switching to a different provider. Check to see that a plan covers the medical services that you and your family need. An important factor to consider is the possibility of being denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. The law regarding an insurance company’s treatment of preexisting conditions isn’t set to change until 2014.
Compare premium rates to find a plan that fits your budget. If you’re looking to purchase individual health insurance, you can get quotes from different companies online, but the actual premium a company charges will be based on your specific risk factors. Although insurance providers vary in their guidelines for assigning risk when setting premiums, companies generally look at age, lifestyle, current health issues and the region of the U.S. where you live.
Review the policy and explanation of benefits carefully before you change your health insurance plan. The number and types of benefits that different policies provide can vary widely. Ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. Be clear about your cost for co-insurance and other out-of-pocket expenses. In addition to what basic services a plan covers, find out if the plan covers any extras such as dental care. Familiarize yourself with the terms of the policy so that you know exactly what services it covers.
Coordinate the dates when you want to cancel your old health plan and activate coverage under your new plan or insurer. This prevents gaps in coverage. Some insurers require documentation from your new provider as proof of coverage before they will cancel your existing policy.
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.