How to Make Wise Choices About 2011 Benefits

VIDEO: Mellody Hobson explains how to get the most out of your policy.

It is health care benefits enrollment time for many workers and experts say it's more important than ever to look carefully at your policy.

Mellody Hobson, "Good Morning America" financial contributor and president of Ariel Investments, shared some tips to keep health care costs down.

Here are Hobson's the top things to keep in mind when choosing your 2011 benefits:

1. Review Your Policy

According to Hobson, it's important to keep track of changes to your policy.

"You have to understand the changes that are occurring in your health plan," she said.

One study found that 1 in every 9 employers expects to raise their co-pay amount by more than 15 percent.

While choosing the plan with the lowest premium is acceptable if you're in good shape and not anticipating any major surgeries, Hobson said your out-of-pocket costs may be much higher and might negate the savings you had in premiums.

2. Look at Premium Options

It's important to consider the level of health coverage.

Many plans now cover only 80 percent of those costs. Plans that cover more may cost you more in premium, so Hobson suggests that make sure you compare your premium versus what your average out-of-pocket costs will be with each plan.

3. Prescription Drugs Costs

The cost of prescription drugs is also another factor to consider when choosing a plan. Many plans are requiring prescription co-pays instead of a flat fee co-pay.

For example, for one drug you may pay 30 percent of the cost while another drug may cost you 50 percent.

Hobson said when you are comparing plans, consider what drugs you use and see if your total prescription co-pay amount exceeds any premium savings you get with the plan.

4. Find Out How Your Plan Covers Kids

One of the provisions in the new health care law is you can now keep your children on your insurance plan up to the age of 26.

Previously, children could be taken off a parent's policy as early as 19 if they were not a full-time student.

Due to the high rates of unemployment among young adults, it's important to find out if your plan will cover your child.

Hobson said it does not matter if they are married, in school, financially dependent on you, or even if they are not currently on your plan.

Insurance companies have responded to this new provision by introducing different pricing systems.

One option to consider is having your child purchase their own private insurance. Plans are as low as $100 per month.

Hobson said it's important remember that if you are adding a child, you need to do it in this open enrollment period, or they will not be eligible next year.

But coverage for children under the age of 19 with pre-existing conditions cannot be excluded from coverage on the health plan starting in 2011.

Flexible Spending Accounts

Besides the traditional HMO and PPO plans, flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are still a good option, Hobson said.

You can still use the accounts for deductibles and co-pays for medical office visits, dental needs, and child care.

However, one thing that is changing in 2011 is that you can no longer use your flexible spending account to pay for drugs that do not require a prescription, known as over-the-counter drugs.

This is important to remember when you decide how much money to set aside.

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