Letter: Planning for health care costs in 2017


Open enrollment (now through Jan. 31) is a good time to map out the best route for meeting your medical needs in the coming year.

Your first step is to make certain you have a health plan that covers your needs in 2017. What worked for you this past year may not be your best choice for 12 months ahead.

When choosing a 2017 health plan, think about all the expected changes in your medical needs, along with any possible unexpected occurrences. As a start consider the following:

■Are you anticipating surgery or a specific treatment next year? Make sure you know whether your planned treatment is covered and what your share of the cost will be. Health Alliance Plan has a cost estimator that allows members to see what they could pay for a specific medical need.

■Have health and wellness lifestyle changes improved your overall health? If so, you may not need as many office visits, prescriptions or treatments next year. A higher deductible health plan may be a lower cost option for you to consider.

■Do you expect to travel next year? Make sure you know how your health plan covers unexpected travel issues and the assistance needed to address them.

■Are you or someone in your household joining a sports team or starting a training program? If so, make sure you understand how sports injuries are covered by your plan.

■Are your prescriptions covered by your health plan? Make sure you understand the level of coverage, including the difference between brand name and generic drugs.

■Will you or someone in your household turn 65 next year? This is a good time to start comparing Medicare plans. Medicare Open Enrollment ends Dec. 7, but those “aging into” Medicare are able to select a plan at the time they actually turn 65.

Most of all, make sure you understand the true cost of your health care. It’s more than just the premiums you pay each month. It’s the premiums, plus the deductible and copay that contribute to your total out-of-pocket cost.

The homework you do now could save you time and money in the coming year if you ask the right questions. Health insurers have experts available to help you make the best health plan decisions for you and your family.

Claudia Swink, director

Health Alliance Plan