Health Coverage 101: Early research, expert guidance keep pitfalls at bay
Thursday, September 21, 2023
When it comes to open enrollment and navigating health insurance options, experts say starting your research sooner rather than later is the best approach.
Understanding health coverage and comparing plans is deemed critical for people to get the benefits they need and can keep costs affordable in the coming year. The enrollment period starts Nov. 1 for MNsure, Minnesota's marketplace tied to the Affordable Care Act. For employer-sponsored coverage, it's typically between September and December. And for people on Medicare, annual enrollment runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
Megan Halena, program director for Generations Health Care Initiatives, a group of health care navigators in Duluth, urged people to use their services.
"So, if there's issues or errors, it can be tricky to correct them," Halena pointed out. "We just really encourage people to start with a navigator right from the beginning."
Navigator services are always free, and those providing help can also offer a referral for those seeking details on Medicare. MNsure's November enrollment start date is for people wanting to sign up for a private coverage plan within the marketplace or make changes. Those qualifying for health insurance aid programs, like MinnesotaCare, can enroll year-round.
Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of Employer and Individual for UnitedHealthcare, said comparing plans and taking time to learn the basic insurance vocabulary -- like deductibles, copays, coinsurance, premiums and more -- are critical for understanding your benefits.
"We have a tool called 'Just Plain Clear.' It's a glossary you can find online," Randall explained. "And for our Medicare Advantage members, a companion called 'Medicare Made Clear.'"
For people without employer-sponsored insurance, predicting income can be difficult for the year ahead. So if you're a seasonal worker or an independent contractor, make an effort to estimate your income based on this year's invoices or pay stubs, and to use any help available to get you through the complicated process of choosing health coverage.
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