As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now more important than ever for people to prepare for their health insurance open enrollment period and select a health plan that’s best for them and their families.
Starting just a couple of weeks ago, many employers have set aside a two- to three-week period when employees can select health benefits for the following year.
This means that nearly 13 million people in New York may select or change their health insurance plans for 2022. Choosing health benefits can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.
We had a chance to speak with Michael McGuire, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare of New York about this year’s changes and procedure. Here’s what he had to share:
Q. Who needs to be mindful of open enrollment?
A. Enrollment periods aren’t the same for everyone, so there are key dates to keep in mind depending on their situation. Be sure to check with your employer to know your options.
For the more than 2.4 million New Yorkers eligible for Medicare, Medicare Annual Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. Meanwhile, New York’s ACA exchange for 2022 plans is open through Dec. 31.
Anything particularly different or new this year that we need to keep in mind?
Though we’ve made good progress as a whole in combating COVID-19, its impacts will continue to be felt in some form or another. With a renewed focus on health, now is the time to take stock, set health goals and plan for the year ahead. If you’re expecting a significant health event in the next year, such as surgery or the birth of a child, be sure to compare the differences between plan designs to find what will work best for you. Many health plans now offer incentives that reward you for taking healthier actions, such as completing a health survey, exercising or avoiding nicotine.
Q. How do we know we are making the right choices?
A. Despite doing this each year, like taxes, many of us guess about coverage we need for the upcoming year. This is true. Whether you’re selecting a plan for the first time or evaluating how well your current one meets your needs, it’s important to take the time to understand and compare the benefits, services and costs of each plan. A good first step is to brush up on health insurance lingo, such as premium, deductible, copays, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximums.
If you’re eligible for Medicare, as you weigh your options, make sure you’re familiar with the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. If you need a review, visit MedicareMadeClear.com—an online resource with answers to questions about eligibility, plan choices, cost basics, prescription coverage and more.
For most people, if they don’t make an enrollment decision, they may be locked into their current plan for another year. If anything has changed this year, either with their current plan, health status or budget, that decision to do nothing could lead to unpleasant surprises or missed cost-savings in 2022.
Q. How has COVID affected insurance selection?
A. Mental health and virtual care options have seen a significant boost in utilization as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re busy juggling kids’ schedules and work responsibilities, traveling or you simply prefer to connect with a doctor from the convenience of your home, consider choosing a plan that includes 24/7 virtual care. These visits are designed to be an easier, more affordable way to talk to doctors about common health issues, using a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Managing your mental health is an important step in caring for your overall well-being. In addition to in-person care, you may now be able to access a large virtual health network of therapists and psychiatrists with many plans—including UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage for a $0 copay. Some health insurers, such as UnitedHealthcare, also offer advocacy services to help you find the right therapist and type of care.
Michael McGuire is chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare in New York. McGuire and his team coordinate access to consumer-oriented health benefit plans and services for nearly 3 million people who get their health plan individually or through small, large and public sector employers. In addition, McGuire is the board chair of the New York Health Plan Association and the Business Council of New York.