With Tuesday beginning the launch of the new health insurance exchange in New York state, consumers should take the time to research their options.
"You should at least do as much research when buying health insurance as you would when buying a major appliance or new car," said Art Wingerter, president of Univera Healthcare.
Individuals who are uninsured, or who are looking for lower cost health insurance coverage, have until March 31 to enroll in a health plan through the New York State of Health, the state's new online health insurance marketplace.
Tips for shopping on the New York exchange:
Become an educated consumer: Watch informational videos or read up at www.youtube.com/user/UniveraHealthcare or nystateofhealth.ny.gov.
Figure out if the household is eligible for financial help. Try the Tax Credit and Premium Estimator at nystateofhealth.ny.gov. Premiums may be reduced if household income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $45,960 for individuals or $94,200 for a family of four.
Determine health care needs. List typical health services and costs in a given year and use the list to help you pick a plan that best fits. For example, those who go to the doctor often may want a plan with lower copays for doctor visits.
Consider all costs. Don't just shop for coverage based on a health plan's premiums. Consider other costs, such as deductibles and copays.
See which health plans work with your doctor. It can be costly to see a doctor, pharmacy or hospital that is not in a health plan's network. Buyers may need to double check the information with the provider or health insurer.
"It won't do you a lot of good to purchase less expensive coverage, if the insurer's provider network doesn't include your doctors, or your preferred hospital," Wingerter said.