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Consumer
Prepare for employer health insurance changes
WASHINGTON (8/21/12)--Many large employers nationwide plan to increase health insurance premiums and make other adjustments to costs and incentives in the benefits they provide employees (Kiplinger  Aug. 10).

Take steps to make the most of these anticipated benefit changes in 2013:

  • Extra out-of-pocket expenses. Look for additional costs for deductibles, drug co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses. When it's time to pick a policy, compare overall costs including premiums, co-insurance rates and deductibles. Make sure your providers and pharmacies participate in your plan.
  • More consumer-directed health plans. These are usually high-deductible plans paired with health savings accounts (HSAs). New in 2013 is the number of employers who will make a high-deductible plan the only option. Most employers will offer larger contributions to HSAs to encourage employees to pick these plans. As you compare plans, factor in your employer's contribution and the participation requirements.
  • Better tools to help you research and compare health costs. Beginning in September, all health plans must provide a standardized, consumer-friendly summary of benefits and coverage--including information about co-payments, deductibles and out-of-pocket limits. And starting in January, the majority of health plans must include online price-transparency tools to help you compare costs. Take advantage of these resources to help you choose providers.
  • More rewards for participating in wellness programs. Employers are increasing incentives for wellness program participation. The larger rewards are worth a second look. In fact, you could be charged more for not participating.
  • Lower flex-spending account (FSA) limits. Employers have been able to set their own FSA limits, but in 2013 they must cap spending account ceilings at $2,500 to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. Employers also must provide a summary of benefits during open enrollment and, for your information only, report the cost of health benefits on your 2012 W-2; your benefits still will not be taxable.
For more information, listen to "Health Care Survival Guide" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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