Ah, fall – such a wonderful time of year. Crisp weather, spooky costumes, cozy fires and, of course, health insurance renewals.

Didn’t see that last one coming? A lot of people don’t. But when your health insurance renewal packet arrives in your mailbox or email inbox this fall, it’s important to take notice and go through it carefully. Health insurance renewals are a time to learn key information about how your plan may be changing – or decide if you want to switch to a new health insurance plan.

Let’s review the top 5 things you need to know about health insurance renewals, plus how you can find out more if you still have questions.

1. Health insurance renewals are your plan’s annual checkup

Just like how you visit the doctor every year to review your health, your health insurance renewal is an opportunity to consider what’s working for you and anything that’s not.

You’ll want to look back over the past year at:

  • Your benefits – Did you go to the doctor as much as you thought you would? Did you use any benefits you didn’t expect? Did you not use any benefits you thought you would? Do you think you might need different coverage next year, like for upcoming procedures or medical equipment?
  • Your costs – When you went to the doctor, how much did it cost? Was it more or less than you thought it would be? What about monthly premiums and deductibles? Did they seem high, low or about right this past year?
  • Your network – Were you able to go to the doctors, clinics and pharmacies you wanted to? Were they close by and convenient? Do you think you might visit anywhere new in the future?

By taking a few minutes to give your health plan a checkup, you’ll be ready to dive into your renewal with a better sense of whether the plan’s still meeting your and your family’s needs.

2. It’s important to look at the numbers in your health insurance renewal

Your renewal notice has information about how your plan will work for the upcoming year. In many respects, your plan may work the same. But there may also be places where it’s different than what you’re used to.

Take the time to read over and check everything so you’re not surprised when you go in for care. Especially review common health insurance terms like:

  • Monthly premiums – This is the amount you have to pay each month for your health insurance. To keep up with health care costs, it’s not unusual for premiums to change from one plan year to the next. If your premium is changing, think about how it’ll fit into your budget.
  • Deductibles – These are amounts you have to pay before your health insurance starts helping with costs. You may have different deductibles for different coverage areas.
  • Copays and coinsurance – This is how much you’ll owe after you meet your plan’s deductibles. When you pay a copay or coinsurance, your health plan covers the rest of the cost. Copays and coinsurance can vary for different coverage areas, so take a closer look at which benefits you expect to use most often.
  • Out-of-pocket max – This is the most you’ll pay in a year for covered health services, including deductibles, copays and coinsurance. After you meet the out-of-pocket max, your plan will fully cover remaining costs.
  • Network – This is the list of doctors, pharmacies and clinics your plan will cover. Usually, it’s cheaper to get health care within your network. But networks can also change from year to year, so make sure to check if where you like to go for care will still be covered.
  • Preventive care – This is the health care you get when you’re not sick to help you stay healthy. Preventive care examples include your annual checkup, immunizations and health screenings. There can be differences between how much preventive care is fully covered, which can impact your health costs.

In addition, if you enrolled in your plan through the health insurance marketplace, you’ll want to review your tax credit information to see if you’re still eligible or if your credit has changed.

3. Your health insurance renewal might remind you about extra plan benefits

Most of the time, health insurance plans aren’t only medical, drug or dental coverage – they frequently come with extra plan perks and benefits that can save you additional money or help you achieve better health.

When you’re reviewing your renewal information, make sure to consider these bonuses, too. For example, many plans offer:

  • 100% coverage for annual physical exams and other preventive care
  • Gym discounts to help you keep up your fitness
  • Savings on weight loss programs or other health products
  • Discounts on eyeglasses and contact lenses
  • Assistance when you’re traveling outside your plan’s coverage area

People often forget to take advantage of these benefits, but they can really add up to mean more money in your pocket – and more peace of mind.

4. You can choose to renew your health insurance – or not

If you’ve reviewed all the information in your plan renewal and you’re satisfied with it, follow the instructions from your insurance company to renew. In many cases, you don’t need to do anything – your health insurance will renew automatically. However, your plan may vary, so check with your insurance company for details.

On the other hand, if you’ve come to the conclusion that you want to switch health insurance plans, you have a few options:

  • Talk to your existing health insurance company. They might be able to help you find a different plan that works better for you.
  • Review health insurance plans offered by different insurance companies, usually online or over the phone with a member of their team. At HealthPartners, it’s easy to review health insurance plans online or get personal help by calling 877-838-4949.
  • Check out your state’s health insurance marketplace. On the marketplace, you can see plan information from many different companies all at once, and you can also find out if you qualify for financial assistance. In Minnesota, get started at MNsure.org. In Wisconsin, go to healthcare.gov.
  • Call your broker. They can talk through your needs and discuss other plan options with you.

5. You need to make a decision about your health insurance renewal before Dec. 15

Open enrollment runs every year from November 1 to December 15 (though employer and Medicare plans’ open enrollment periods may vary).

During open enrollment, anyone can change their health insurance plan, for any reason. This means that, if you don’t want to renew your plan, you can shop around and compare plans to find one you like.

But to avoid any gaps in coverage, it’s important to renew or enroll in a new plan before open enrollment ends on December 15. If you wait too long, you could find yourself without health insurance coverage – and no easy way to get it.

No matter what you choose to do, hold on to your renewal notice for your records. If you have any questions about your renewal notice, call your health plan’s Member Services number on the back of your current member ID card. They’ll be able to help answer any questions you have.

Getting help with your health insurance renewal

Not sure whether you should renew your health insurance or look elsewhere? At HealthPartners, we help people in Minnesota and western Wisconsin find the right plan with the right coverage.

We specialize in making things simple so you can choose a health insurance plan that makes sense for you and your family. That way, everyone can start the new year on the right foot.