Sunday, August 17, 2008

Time for an Insurance Checkup

Consumers have a variety of insurance policies in effect. Some may be through the employer where the end of the year could be the time specified for making changes to existing plans, updating coverage and signing up for new plans. The group benefits would most likely be health, vision, dental, life, LTC, worker’s compensation, ADD and Disability. The payments for these are taken from your paycheck.

The other insurance policies would be through your insurance agent for the homeowners, condo owners or renters policy and automobile policies. You may also have additional coverage for stand-alone coverage such as earthquake or flood insurance.

Look for your most recent member handbook to your Insurance Company. Make note of any changes within the network, compare co-pays for each option for your health benefits. It might be time to change Doctors or the provider group is no longer in the network. Doctor fees rise as well and need to be taken into account when changing Physicians, as well as the location to your home and work. It might be beneficial to choose a Doctor that has Saturday hours or one that works within two Hospitals for more options.

Also look into how your network handles referrals for continuing health needs such as seeing a Specialist for Asthma or therapy needs for children and adults. Prescription plans can be the determining factor for choosing a particular HMO or PPO through your employer plans.

It is important to take the paperwork home and go over it as a family to make sure every member's needs are taken into account. Will your child need braces, anyone wear eyeglasses, have a speech delay or require specific medications that might not be covered without a Physician's visit for each refill.

Emergency services, plus ambulance costs and mileage to the nearest Hospital need to be taken into consideration. With some plans the consumer needs to pay a set rate after so many ambulance visits or emergency calls to the house for the same issues.

With family planning you need to check out the Hospitals and see the rooms and find out if Certified Nurse Midwives are the ones who deliver babies, especially if you want an OB/GYN Specialist.

Urgent care, hospice care, counseling services, mental health, newborn care and lab services are all areas to look into before deciding on a plan. Visit a few pharmacies near work on your lunch hour to see what the wait time is and take the time to get to know your chosen Pharmacist.

At this time you might also consider adding more coverage to existing vision and/or dental plans or change providers. At your annual insurance checkup you have the option of increasing your deductible on any of your plans. For your personal needs this might be worthwhile after perusing through the pay-out options within the basic, enhanced or premiere options.

It is also imperative that you take your age into account when making additions or revisions to current insurance plans. This might not be the time to lower health insurance coverage. Remember also that there could be a retirement plan, savings or 401K plan, tuition assistance plan, as well as an employee assistance plan, flexible spending accounts and legal service plans.

For me at age 46 I have almost $50 taken out of my paycheck to cover an Accident and Disability expense policy and a Cancer Protector Policy. Both are through Allstate-at-Work and my home health care workers union. I have decided to increase the benefits to the next tier as I am at the basic level for each of these.

Since I would not be able to handle the increased deduction from my paycheck I plan on waiting for my income tax return next year and then making the request for increased coverage and paying at the annual rate, which would increase my take home pay. Also each year around that time my rent goes up about fifty dollars, so I would be at the same current amount. Those who receive SSI will receive a 3.3 percent increase come January 2007.

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