The health insurance plan you choose will largely dictate your out-of-pocket medical spending during the year, so it pays to put lots of thought into that decision. Unfortunately, a large percentage of Americans feel they chose poorly in this regard.
In an Aflac survey last year, 42% of families with children said they made health coverage choices they regretted within the past two years. And they've since suffered for it. Here are the top five regrets:
48% chose a plan with limited benefits
It can be tempting to choose a low-cost health plan when money is tight and you don't want to spend a fortune on premiums. But if you sign up for a healthcare plan with limited benefits, you're more likely to have to pay for services out of pocket than someone whose health plan offers a wider scope of coverage.
The takeaway? When evaluating the cost of a health insurance plan, don't just look at how high or low its premiums run. Rather, assess the whole picture.
41% saw an out-of-network doctor
Sticking to in-network providers is a good way to keep your healthcare spending down. In some cases, an out-of-network doctor may be more convenient or come highly recommended. But be aware that depending on your plan, you may have to foot the entire bill for an out-of-network doctor visit yourself.
If you're going to go out of network, ask the provider you're looking to see if there's a discounted rate for patients paying out of pocket. Or see if your insurance plan offers any out-of-network benefits, because some will pick up part of the tab.
36% chose too high a deductible
There are benefits to a high-deductible health insurance plan, like the option to contribute to a health savings account and enjoy the tax breaks involved. But if you tend to get sick a lot, and are likely to have to meet your deductible, then a higher one may not be the best choice.
Generally, premiums and deductibles have an inverse relationship: The more you pay for one, the less you pay for the other. Plans with higher deductibles tend to charge lower premiums, so if you don't think you'll use your insurance often, a high-deductible plan is a decent bet. But if that's not the case, then you may be better off with a lower, more manageable deductible.
30% chose a plan that didn't include their doctor's network
Finding a healthcare provider you can really trust is easier said than done. But if that provider is considered out of network on your insurance plan, then seeing that doctor may not be financially feasible.
Do some research and see if the doctors you know and love are covered under the choices you're looking at. Sometimes, paying a bit more in premiums for access to your favored providers is worth the peace of mind you get in return.
26% did not sufficiently research their benefits
Different insurance plans have different requirements when it comes to receiving care. For example, your plan might require that you obtain a referral before seeing a specialist, and failing to do so could leave you on the hook for a large bill your insurer might have otherwise paid.
The point? Always research your benefits and understand what steps you need to take to ensure that your healthcare services are paid for. Although waiting on hold to speak to an agent may not be your preferred way to spend your time, discussing your benefits with a live person is sometimes the best way to ensure that you're truly in the loop.
The wrong healthcare moves could wreak havoc on your budget and land you in a world of stress. If you made a mistake relating to your health coverage in recent years, learn from it. That way, your finances won't suffer from a repeat.