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Avoid last-minute crush of choosing a health plan


When it comes to open enrollment and navigating the many health care options, experts say starting your research sooner rather than later is the best approach.

Understanding health insurance coverage benefits and comparing plans is critical so people get the coverage they need and can keep costs affordable for the coming year. The enrollment period starts Nov. 1 on the Health Insurance Marketplace. 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.

Scott Darius, executive director of Florida Voices for Health, focused on increasing access to care.

"I would encourage people to go look at their options and really find out what's out there," Darius advised. "And to work with a navigator first of all, to really understand what those options are and what works best for them."

Darius recommended getting help through Covering Florida navigators, which he described as giving unbiased, in-person or virtual assistance at no cost. He suggested using a navigator or a certified application counselor who can search for options even though Florida has not expanded Medicaid. He also warned consumers to be wary of possible private "bad actors" who might be working on commission.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of Employer and Individual for United Healthcare, 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,'" Randall explained. "It's a glossary you can find online - 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. 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.

Healthcare, Florida, Florida News Connection, Health, Covering Florida, Just Plain Clear, Health Insurance