Choose a health plan during open enrollment with these 7 tips

Rob Falkenberg is the CEO of UnitedHealthcare of California. Courtesy photo

Open enrollment season is here, a time when more than 18.3 million people in California and millions of Americans across the country will have the opportunity to select or switch their health insurance plan for 2020.

To help guide people during this important time, here are some tips that may help lead them to better health and cost savings.

Tip 1: Know the open enrollment dates. For the more than 178 million Americans with employer-provided coverage, many employers set aside a two-week period between September and December when employees can select health benefits for the following year.

For the more than 64 million people enrolled in Medicare, Medicare annual open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.

For most people, changes made during this time will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Tip 2: Understand the options. When it comes to selecting a plan, one size does not fit all. Take the time to understand the options and find what will work best. A good first step is to make sure to understand health insurance lingo, such as premium, deductible, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum. If anyone needs a refresher, check out UnitedHealth Group’s “Just Plain Clear Glossary” in English, Spanish and Portuguese to learn and understand health care terms. Visit And if they’re eligible for Medicare, people should make sure they’re familiar with the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage as they weigh their options.

Tip 3: Anticipate next year’s health expenses. When reviewing the options, plan ahead. Maybe they are expecting a significant health event next year, such as a surgery or having a baby. If so, then it’s even more important to compare the “total cost” of the plan, not just the monthly premium. Plan designs vary, so also compare deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

Tip 4: Check to make sure medications are covered. Even if someone doesn’t expect to change plans, it’s important to make sure their prescription drugs will still be covered next year. Costs can change from year to year, and how much they pay for generics versus brands may differ among health plans.

Tip 5: Ask about well-being programs. Many health plans now offer financial incentives that reward people for taking healthier actions, such as completing a health survey, walking, going to the gym or not using nicotine. Also, many Medicare Advantage plans offer gym memberships and wellness programs for members at no additional costs.

Tip 6: Don’t forget about specialty benefits. Additional benefits, such as dental, vision, hearing, disability or critical illness insurance, are often cost-effective coverage options that can help protect the family from head to toe. For Medicare beneficiaries, some may be surprised that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services, but many Medicare Advantage plans do.

Tip 7: Try the convenience of virtual visits. If a family is busy juggling their children’s schedules or work travel, or simply prefer to connect with a doctor from the comfort of their home,  consider choosing a plan that includes 24/7 virtual visits. It may be a convenient, lower-cost way to talk to a doctor about minor health issues, and all they need is a smartphone, tablet or computer. Often, telehealth is available to members of employer-sponsored, individual and Medicare Advantage plans.

For more helpful articles and videos about open enrollment and health care, visit

Submitted by UnitedHealthcare Open Enrollment.