How to Make the Most of Health Insurance Open Enrollment Season

By Colleen Van Ham, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Illinois

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - HealthPeople throughout Illinois are in the midst of open enrollment, the time between September and December when most Americans select or switch their health insurance plan for the following year. Many employees throughout Illinois are now reviewing and selecting their health benefits package for 2014.

In many cases, consumers who spend time reviewing their health plan options can find ways to save money on their health care costs – whether it’s through selecting a plan that will cover more of their expected health costs for a major event in the coming year (such as having a baby or surgery), reviewing which doctors participate in the health plan’s care provider network, or evaluating prescription drug coverage.

Regardless of how you access health insurance, it’s important to pay attention to the following open-enrollment dates and be aware of tips that may save you money.  There are three distinct open-enrollment periods this year:

Employer-Provided Coverage – Fall season, specific dates depend on the employer

About 157 million Americans receive employer-provided health benefits, so their open-enrollment process will likely stay the same this fall. Large employers and some small employers typically schedule a two- to three-week period during the fall when their employees can select health benefits for the following year.  

Medicare Open Enrollment Period – Through Dec. 7

For most Medicare beneficiaries, the Open Enrollment Period is their only opportunity all year to make changes to their Medicare coverage. Beneficiaries can choose to switch to a new Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plan during the Open Enrollment Period.

Health Insurance Exchanges – Through March 31

A public health insurance exchange may be a good option for people who are eligible to receive a government subsidy that lowers monthly premiums.  In general, subsidies are available to individuals who meet household income requirements and who are not eligible for certain government insurance programs (such as Medicaid) or do not have access to affordable coverage through their employer.

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