Open enrollment may provide an opportunity to practice gratefulness for insurance; however, if we’re being honest, it can also be a stressful season. While you are trying to stay on top of your projects, you also have to make sure you pick the correct insurance plan, either for you personally or for your family. It is your one shot each year to try to perfectly balance the amount leaving your paycheck and the right amount of coverage, with as little out of pocket as possible. Doctor or hospital preferences can also further complicate matters.

It’s important to remember that you’re not a victim. Information is available to you, but sometimes, it takes a little searching and comparing to find the right option that meets your needs.

Know the difference between the different types of plans.

If you’re not sure what is the difference between HMOs, PPOs, EPOs, POS, etc, you can ask your Human Resources or do a simple search to compare. Once you understand the differences between the basic options, you can then determine which one fits with your lifestyle and budget. Sometimes, if you know your doctor is part of an HMO, even if you have limited flexibility with that option, that might be the smartest option for you. If you like options and it’s not cost prohibitive, a PPO will usually make sure you’re covered or somewhat covered, even if you’re out of state or network.

Look up your preferred providers for you and your family.

If you know what kind of specialists you might need, make a few phone calls to see what insurance they accept. It might not be possible to pick your insurance based on who you have selected as preferred physicians over the years; however, it could help to narrow the options for you.

Once open enrollment begins, most organizations offer a tool to compare multiple plans at the same time in all the key categories. Select an option from each of the types to compare the differences in each of the insurance categories. Generally, you’ll see differences in cost and flexibility.

Ask around when in doubt.

Sometimes it’s helpful to hear from others why they’ve selected their plans. HR is a great resource for you, too, if you need to understand what your paycheck will look like or how the different healthcare companies operate.

Reassess your past year.

Estimate the number of well and sick visits. Estimate how many specialists you might need. Look at your budget. Was it harder to have out of pocket costs? Instead of nervously shooting in the dark with different healthcare options, pay attention to your prior year, and if you can, add in multiple years to the assessment. If you have never tracked this information, simply make estimates wherever possible, and consider tracking this information in the upcoming year so you’re better prepared for the future.

Insurance is truly a blessing. Unfortunately, not all insurance plans are created equally. The beauty of America is that we often get the power of choices. Take a minute to assess and strategize for your options so you’re less overwhelmed when it comes time to make your selections. And throughout the process, practice gratefulness for the choices and privilege of healthcare.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.