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Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2006

Making insurance decisions easier

October 5, 2006

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When it comes to open enrollment, don't be like me.

Don't wait until the last day to figure out if you need to keep the benefit options you have, or change what you elected to get last year.

I know why I procrastinate. I know why others do. There's just so much to consider.

Of course, whatever option you choose probably will cost more each year. Between spring of 2005 and spring of 2006, premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose by 7.7 percent, a slower rate than the 9.2 percent increase in 2005 and 11.2 percent increase in 2004, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust. Overall, premiums have increased 87 percent over the past six years.

The findings of the Kaiser/HRET survey essentially say we're still getting hit on the head, but not as hard as in the past.

However, the end result is still the same: We have a headache.

But don't let that swirling feeling stop you from re-evaluating your choices. In fact, let me suggest a resource that may help you. The insurance company Aetna, the Financial Planning Assn. and Wiley Publishing have teamed to offer free copies of "Navigating Your Health Benefits For Dummies."

The 64-page guide includes an explanation of the types of plans and tips on how to file a claim and appeal a decision.

Individual copies of the guide are available at www.planforyourhealth.com or by calling (800) 994-7394.

One of the guide's authors, Tracey A. Baker, said if she had one tip, it would be to evaluate how you are using your health coverage. Look back at how you used it in the past year. "Many people are paying for benefits they are not using," she said.

Look, there is no question that open enrollment is a pain, if for no other reason than it reminds you of how much of a pain this can be in your pocketbook. But don't procrastinate. Open that packet and do what you have to do - make an informed choice.

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