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Choose your health benefits in 2024

Greg Wright

UnitedHealthcare of California

As inflation in the U.S. remains high, people may be looking to adjust their lifestyle and spending habits. But when it comes to health care, it’s important to keep the budget and well-being in mind.

This year’s open enrollment season is a good chance to review how they’re using health services and decide whether they’ll stick with the plan they’ve got or switch to another being offered. It’s also an opportunity to assess their overall care costs to help ensure they choose a plan that will work best for next year’s budget.

For people with coverage from their employer, open enrollment typically happens during a two- or three-week period between September and December. For those eligible for Medicare, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period runs from Oct. 15, to Dec. 7, each year. Coverage selections made during the fall will take effect Jan. 1, 2024.

Here are seven tips to consider when choosing a plan that may help lead you to better health and cost savings.

Consider all your options

Take time to understand and compare the benefits, services and costs of each plan available to you, so you can figure out which will be the best fit. Pay attention to more than just the monthly premium – like what out-of-pocket costs, including the deductible, copays and coinsurance, you may be responsible for.

As Medicare members and caregivers weigh your options, ensure you’re familiar with the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. If you need a review, visit MedicareEducation.com – an online resource with answers to questions about eligibility, plan choices, cost basics, prescription coverage and more.

Learn the language

If you’re overwhelmed by or unsure about certain health care terms, there are resources to help. As a start, check out UnitedHealth Group’s Just Plain Clear Glossary (in English, Spanish and Portuguese) to help you make informed decisions.

There’s a lot for Medicare members and caregivers to learn about Medicare and Medicare Made Clear can help you understand the basics, the complexities and everything in between.

Help prevent financial surprises

Visiting doctors that are in-network is one way to help keep your costs lower. So before selecting a plan, check to see if your doctor is in your health plan’s provider network. Also, make sure your medications will be covered by the plan you choose next year – even if you don’t expect to change plans. Look into filling your prescriptions at a participating network pharmacy or with home delivery by mail — two more potentially money-saving options.

Medicare members and caregivers may be surprised to learn Original Medicare doesn’t generally cover prescription drugs. Consider adding Part D or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage to help keep your medication costs in check.

Check for mental health coverage

In addition to in-person mental health care, you may have access to a large virtual network of therapists and psychiatrists. Some health insurers also offer advocacy services to help you find the right type of behavioral health care.

Medicare members and caregivers can look for plans that offer virtual mental health care with a $0 copay.

Don’t forget about specialty benefits

Additional benefits, such as dental, vision, hearing or critical illness insurance, are often available and may contribute to overall well-being.

Medicare members and caregivers may be surprised that Original Medicare doesn’t cover most dental, vision and hearing services, but many Medicare Advantage plans do.

Look into wellness programs

Many health plans offer incentives that reward you for taking healthier actions, such as completing a health survey, exercising or avoiding nicotine.

Medicare members and caregivers should know that many Medicare Advantage plans also offer gym memberships and wellness programs for members at no additional cost.

Explore virtual care services

If you’re busy or just prefer connecting with a doctor from the convenience of your home, consider choosing a plan that includes 24/7 virtual care. You may have access to virtual wellness visits, urgent care and chronic condition management.

Medicare members and caregivers should know that most Medicare Advantage plans provide access to virtual care, which can be an easier, more affordable way to talk with doctors about common health issues on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

For more helpful articles and videos about open enrollment, visit http://UHCOpenEnrollment.com.

Greg Wright is CEO of Medicare & Retirement for UnitedHealthcare of California.

 

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