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Navigating This Year’s Health Insurance Open Enrollment Season

Washington, DC (NAPSI) - Open enrollment is the time of year, usually between  September and December, when millions of Americans have the opportunity to  select or switch their health insurance plan for the following year.

Unfortunately, just 14 percent of Americans understand basic health  insurance concepts such as deductible, co-pay, co-insurance and out-of-pocket  maximum, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Health  Economics.

“Choosing health care coverage for yourself and your family is one  of the most important decisions you will make this year,” said Tom  Paul, chief consumer officer for UnitedHealthcare. “Fortunately,  there are a number of useful resources people can use as they review and  understand their options for selecting the plan that best meets their  personal health and budget needs.”

Beginning this fall, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that an  additional 7 million people may participate in open enrollment as a result of  the government’s newly created state health insurance exchanges,  otherwise known as “marketplaces.” The exchanges are a component  of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and are designed to  give people, especially lower-income individuals and families that may  qualify for federal subsidy assistance, another resource to purchase health  insurance.

In general, most people who get health insurance at work will see little  or no change in the open-enrollment process, and people on Medicare, Medicaid  and other government insurance programs are also not likely affected. The  vast majority of Americans—about 157 million with employer-provided  coverage, and more than 51 million Medicare beneficiaries—will continue  to select a health insurance plan in the same way they have done in the past.

Regardless of how you access health insurance, it’s important to pay  attention to the following open enrollment dates and tips:

• Employer-Provided Coverage—Fall;  specific dates depend on the employer

Most Americans receive employer-provided health benefits, so their open  enrollment process will most likely stay the same. Large employers and some  small employers typically schedule a two- to three-week period during the  fall when their employees can select health benefits for the following year.

• Tip: Ask about wellness  programs. Some health insurers, including UnitedHealthcare,  offer incentive-based wellness programs that provide financial rewards for  completing health assessments, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight or  even signing up for a health coaching program.

• Medicare Open Enrollment  Period—Oct. 15 through Dec. 7

For most Medicare beneficiaries, the Open Enrollment Period is their only  opportunity all year to make changes to their Medicare coverage.

• Tip: Think about what’s  changed regarding your health and your options. A lot can change in a year.  Consider if your current plan is still meeting your health and budget needs.  Medicare plans can change each year, too, so spend time reviewing the options  available. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits that can  help enhance your health and well-being and save you money, such as vision  coverage and hearing aids. You can compare your options using the plan finder  tool at

• Health Insurance Exchanges—Oct.  1 through March 31

A public health insurance exchange may be a good option for people who are  eligible to receive a government subsidy that lowers monthly premiums.

• Tip: Find out if you  qualify for a subsidy. In general, subsidies are available to individuals who  meet household income requirements and who are not eligible for certain  government insurance programs (such as Medicaid) or do not have access to  affordable coverage through their employer.

For helpful information and resources, visit and To learn more about health insurance exchanges, visit