New reforms start that will change open enrollment

October 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
There are new reforms kicking in right now that could change your open enrollment strategy when you sign up for health care benefits at work. Almost no one knows this, but just days ago one of the reforms kicked in that will make your open enrollment period, easier to deal with, if you know what to ask for.

This is the time of year American families choose their health insurance plans. It is called "open enrollment" -- the period near the end of each year set aside for workers and retirees to choose among health insurance plans. Down in San Francisco's Financial District they're gearing up.

"It can be difficult. It depends on what kind of situation your family is in at this point in time. [So they have to] plan ahead for 2013 at this point in time for which plan works out best for them. There are a lot of good plans out there," said Victor Law from San Francisco.

But how do you find the right plan for you.

"Now, there's nothing simple about health insurance," said Consumers Union's Elizabeth Imholz. She has been doing the hard work of helping to implement the health care reforms. She says a new form is going to make your insurance pick easier. "The health reform law requires that health insurers for all private health insurance, whether it's from a small or large employer in the individual market, give you a simple summery of your benefits."

The form lays out exactly what is paid for and what is not. Every form is the same, so there's no more reading the fine print and guessing at coverage.

The forms even give examples. Here's one example -- for managing type 2 diabetes, the average annual amount owed to providers $5,400. The plan pays $3,520 of that, leaving the patient with a $1,880 bill.

But be forewarned just because a form is filled out by a company, it doesn't mean you are getting a good policy.

"We believe there is going to be some misrepresentation going on, by some less scrupulous players. So people have to be on the lookout for junk insurance and that you don't get stuck in a plan that is not really meaningful because poor coverage can be worse than none at all. It can waste your money," said Imholz.

Which brings us back to those Financial District workers and their upcoming decisions.

Finney: The new health care reform laws effect that. Did you know that?
Woman: No. What does it say.
Another woman: How does it affect that?
Finney: They have a new form so you can compare all the programs. If they don't give you the form, ask for it.
Woman: Oh, we will.

And you should too.

Those forms are mandated by law. If you don't get them let me know and I'll make sure you do.

Review of all health insurance companies
New Consumers Union guide to health reform


Load Comments