If you're one of those Americans who is lucky enough to be both employed and covered by a business health insurance plan, you probably know that this time of year - mid-October through early-November - is the usual time for open enrollment in health plans, as well as the time when you can change your benefits for the next plan year.
It may be tempting to continue with the same options you've had so far, but before you decide what you have is enough, make sure you read everything. You may find that some benefits that used to be automatic are now optional, or that there are changes to coverage options.
Other tips for working with business health insurance plans to get the coverage you need and save money where you can include:
Look past the premium. Cheap health insurance is usually cheap for a reason. In most cases if a premium is really low it either means that you'll receive fewer benefits or that you'll be paying larger co-payments.
Read everything, and then check your choices. Many people forget to select optional coverage like dental and vision care.
Consider a higher deductible. Just as with auto insurance, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Just be sure you set aside enough money to cover the out-of-pocket expenses you'll accrue until your deductible is met.
Consider an HSA or FSA HSAs, or Health Savings Accounts, usually come with high-deductible insurance plans, and allow you to carry the balance over from year to year, or bring it with you if you change your group health insurance companies.
FSAs, or Flexible Spending Accounts, are more, well, flexible. You can set aside a certain amount of pre-tax income for any health-related item that your insurance doesn't cover (including some prescriptions, and elective surgery), but you have to use it by the end of the year, or you'll lose whatever money is left in the account. Beginning in 2013, there will be an annual cap of $2,500 on these accounts.
Separate can be more than equal. If you and your spouse or partner are both employed, and both qualify for benefits, it's far less expensive for each of you to carry your own health insurance, and for whomever has the least expensive policy to cover any children, listing the other parent's insurance as secondary coverage.
Stick with the plan. If your health plan is an HMO or PPO, be sure you always use doctors who are part of the network, as insurance will pay a greater percentage of your medical bills.
Avoid the ER. Even if your insurance covers ER visits, you should make a point of only going when it really is an emergency. Otherwise, check to see if your coverage includes urgent-care or after-hours clinics, and go there for things that are urgent but not truly critical.
These are just a few ways you can maximize your group health insurance care, but the best thing you can do is not need it. Joining a wellness program or taking other steps to keep yourself healthy are better for your body and your wallet.