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In most states, Open Enrollment for 2022 health plans begins on November 1, 2021, and runs through January 15, 2022, which is 30 days longer this year. With very few exceptions (some additional enrollment opportunities were added during the height of the pandemic), Open Enrollment is the only time you can get a new health plan, switch plans, or re-enroll in your current plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

While many people only skim over the information they receive for Open Enrollment or commit to what they had before, a lot can change in a year. It’s wise to look carefully at your options. Whether you’re enrolling for the first time or planning to renew your current plan, it’s a good idea to prepare now — to ensure that the application process runs smoothly when the time comes.

BELOW WE OUTLINE A FEW THINGS TO CONSIDER AS YOU GET READY FOR OPEN ENROLLMENT:

Try to realistically anticipate how much health insurance you and your family will need. While it’s impossible to anticipate emergencies, you should make a list of your family’s expected healthcare needs for the coming year. This includes surgeries, medicines, or any regular or ongoing medical care.

Are there any significant life changes on the horizon? Having a baby? Getting married? Anticipating major medical expenses? If you know that significant changes are happening over the next year, you should consider them when selecting benefits. For instance, if you’re single and are planning on getting married, you should compare benefits to those of your soon-to-be spouse to see if you’d be better off joining their plan.

Know what’s available. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that all plans offered on the Marketplace include the same essential health benefits and preventive services. The plans include Gold, Silver, and Bronze options. But while the ACA was designed to make it possible for anyone to purchase health insurance, remember that ACA rules do not govern state-sponsored and short-term benefit plans. As a result, they may not offer the same coverage.

Check on your doctors. Always confirm what insurance companies your existing doctors and other providers work with. Your out-of-pocket costs are lowest when you use in-network doctors for your medical care.

Compare plans. Review the plans available to you. The most common types of policies fall within four groups: Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs), Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs), or Point of Service Plans (POS) plans.

Begin by taking a close look at the amount and type of treatment you’ve received in the past. Also, look for a summary of benefits. The kind of policy you choose will determine everything from your out-of-pocket costs to which doctors you can see. It’s essential to take all factors into account.

Be honest about your budget. Depending on your income, you may receive assistance with monthly payments. Regardless, look for a plan that fits your budget and has the right balance of affordable monthly premiums and reasonable amounts due when you require care.

Look for hidden perks. Some insurance companies will lower your premiums if you meet specific qualifications — for instance, becoming CPR certified, belonging to fitness clubs, enrolling in programs to quit smoking, etc. Examine all the particulars to see if you can save a little money.

Get ready to enroll. In addition to the steps outlined above, the Department of Health & Human Services has a handy checklist of things to have ready when you’re preparing for Open Enrollment. You can check it out here.

Mark your calendar. The last week of October is usually the window where the first look at 2021 plans and premiums becomes available. Remember that Enrollment starts November 1 and ends December 15. Once Open Enrollment closes, you can only enroll or change plans if you have specific life changes, qualify for Medicaid, or opt for a short-term plan.

We’re here when you need us. At Health & Benefits Partners, we’re here to ensure you can get the health insurance coverage you need. Our tools and resources will help guide your decision-making, help you compare plans and benefits, and learn about any credits or subsidies for which you might qualify.

Reach out to one of our qualified specialists today and feel empowered when buying health insurance.