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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Get Ready for Open Enrollment

You likely have several health insurance plans to choose from if that is part of your employment benefits. When you can join one will vary. Consider your options well since you typically can make changes only once a year.

You can make changes to your insurance plan during a period called open enrollment. It usually takes place for a short time each fall or spring.

If you miss it, you may be stuck with coverage that doesn't match your needs or budget.

If you don’t have insurance through your employer, there is also an open enrollment period for the health insurance Marketplaces, which are part of the Affordable Care Act, from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31. If you choose a plan from a Marketplace, you will likely have more policies to pick from than an employer might offer.

As you decide on a plan for next year, consider these key issues:

Does your current plan still measure up? You may be happy with the coverage you have now and want to stay with it. But make sure you carefully review the updated terms of your plan. That way you won't be surprised by any changes to benefits, deductibles, or other parts of coverage that you do not want or need.

If both you and your spouse or partner work, does it make sense to share a plan? Or should you each keep the individual plans that your employers offer? Go over the plans from each employer to see which offers the better, more affordable plan.

Individual plans, which you can customize to your health needs, have become a more affordable option thanks to tax laws that let you lower your income taxes by deducting your premium from your taxable income.

Do others recommend the plan you are considering? Look into organizations that rate insurance companies. For example, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a health care nonprofit, ranks more than 500 private health plans.

Which plans cover the doctors and services you want or need? If you like the doctor that you see now, make sure she is in your plan's network. If not, going to a health provider “out of network” will likely cost you more.

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