New for open enrollment: Plans with upfront pricing, virtual care and health incentives

Open enrollment – it’s the time each year set aside for you to take a close look at your health benefits. Is your insurance plan working for you or are there adjustments that could be made? What new offerings may be available to help make health care easier to access and more affordable?

The key is picking plans with all the right elements. A helpful place to start that process may be by figuring out what’s changed – either in your life or for your plan options – since the last time you signed up for coverage.

This year, you may be able to choose a plan with a different design, such as one that eliminates deductibles and makes it easier to comparison shop for care. There may be options for increased mental health support to help reduce stress and avoid burnout. You may have access to wellness programs with incentives to exercise, improve your sleep or quit smoking.

Beyond traditional specialty plans such as dental and vision, there may be additional voluntary benefits that could be a good fit for you and your family, such as accident, critical illness or disability coverage.

Here are five things to help you prepare to make benefit choices for 2024

1. Plans with upfront pricing

Inflation and rising costs remain a concern for many people. With that in mind, you may want to look for a plan with upfront pricing, which makes it possible to know your out-of-pocket costs before making medical appointments.

For example, UnitedHealthcare’s Surest™ plan eliminates deductibles and give eligible members upfront cost and coverage information. Through the Surest app, members can identify higher-value care providers and facilities, with this enhanced cost and coverage information helping reduce the risk of a surprise bill which may help lower  member out-of-pocket costs by up to 54%.

2. Easing out-of-pocket expenses

Covering deductibles and other out-of-pocket health care expenses may be a concern for many consumers. For some eligible members, programs like UnitedHealthcare’s Care Cash aims to help offer “first-dollar coverage” through use of a pre-funded debit card to help pay for certain health care expenses.

Through the program, an eligible member can receive up to $200 for the year for individuals or $500 for families, which can be used to cover out-of-pocket costs for outpatient behavioral health appointments, eligible in-network primary care physician visits, 24/7 Virtual Visit providers, urgent care facilities, lab visits and certain specialty care.  

3. Virtual care options

Virtual care, also called telehealth, has gone from serving people who are already sick to detecting diseases and managing chronic conditions more effectively. Some plans now include access to virtual primary care and specialty services, including mental health, dental and hearing care.

Telehealth may help make access to care more convenient and affordable, especially for people with busy schedules or those in remote locations. To make these appointments even more affordable, a growing number of UnitedHealthcare members have access to 24/7 Virtual Visits with no cost sharing, effectively waiving any deductibles or copays.1  

4. Increased behavioral and mental health support

Behavioral and mental health help may be included with your plan options, especially as companies look to expand offerings to address the need. Look for support that meets your needs across the entire care continuum, including: mental health education, stress-reduction apps, virtual coaching, in-person and virtual therapy, psychiatric care.

Your plan may also feature an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) designed to make it easier and more affordable to connect with mental health services.

5. Consumer engagement programs

Some health plans are introducing or expanding programs designed to encourage members to engage with their health plan and adopt healthier habits, including offering rewards and incentives to help make more informed health and lifestyle decisions. A recent survey showed 18% of respondents weren’t sure if their employer offered wellness programs so taking the time to look into those offerings could help with decision-making.  

For example, UnitedHealthcare Rewards offers eligible members up to $1,0002 in incentives for completing certain daily health program goals like regular fitness and consistent sleep and one-time activities, such as annual wellness exams, biometric screenings and an annual flu shot. The program enables members to use their rewards in a variety of ways, which includes access to a pre-paid debit card or deposited into a health saving account/health reimbursement account for members who want help covering out of pocket medical costs.3

One more thing: After you research your options, make sure you know when you’re supposed to sign up for coverage:

  • For employer-provided coverage, open enrollment typically occurs within a 2- to 3-week period between September and December.
  • For Affordable Care Act plans, visit your state’s health insurance website to find this year’s enrollment dates.
  • For Medicare, you can enroll or make changes to coverage from Oct. 15-Dec. 7.

Choosing a health plan

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