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Choosing the right insurance plan for your family

Friday, November 20, 2015

With insurance enrollment deadlines for Medicare and the Health Insurance Marketplace quickly approaching, many consumers across Oklahoma and the nation are faced with important decisions that could have lasting consequences. So, how should you go about making the best choice?

Start by identifying your family’s specific needs and circumstances, said Sissy Osteen, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension personal resource management specialist.

“Answering some important basic questions will play a big role in the type and amount of coverage you seek,” Osteen said. “Think about the ages and health of family members who need coverage, as well as your financial circumstances. For many families, the most important considerations are what is covered, how much it costs, and which doctors and hospitals are included in the plan.”

Also, think about your lifestyle and family history. For instance, do you follow a poor diet or a healthy one? Does your family have a record of poor health?

Generally, insurance is usually cheaper the younger and healthier you are, and your budget and finances will influence the premium you will be able to afford.

Keep in mind regardless of the policy you select, you will have some out-of-pocket expenses for deductibles, copayments and coinsurance amounts. It is a good idea to look into any available flex benefit plans to offset these expenses with before-tax dollars.

For more information on general factors to consider when exploring insurance, www.aarp.org is a good resource, particularly for older adults. The Oklahoma Insurance Department (www.ok.gov/oid) can offer information and even assistance in cases where you might be experiencing difficulties getting your insurance needs met.

Once you know what you need, you can begin researching specific policies matching those needs. In the case of Medicare and the Health Insurance Marketplace, www.medicare.gov and www.healthcare.gov, respectively, are good starting points.

Learn as much as you can about any potential policies with a goal of gaining an understanding of what is and is not covered.

“As you’re looking closely at the services offered under any plan that interests you, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Thanks to technology, most businesses offer multiple ways to contact them,” Osteen said. “You certainly don’t want to be faced with a situation in which you think you’re covered for something and then find out you’re not.”

Finally, as you narrow your search and ultimately chose a plan, be aware of all key dates and deadlines.

“You need to know the enrollment deadline, of course, but it’s also important to know when your coverage kicks in and when it expires,” Osteen said.

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