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Tough health insurance choices

October 5, 2011 7:59:56 PM PDT
When new provisions of health reform take effect next year, it will be much easier to compare health plans. Insurers will have to use a standard form that describes costs such as co-pays and deductibles in plain English. Until then, choosing a health plan remains quite difficult.

To see how your health plan stacks up against others, or to help you find a plan if you're shopping for one, Consumer Reports just analyzed data from the independent, nonprofit organization the National Committee for Quality Assurance. The data on hundreds of plans shows that there are significant differences in how well the plans manage chronic conditions, such as asthma or heart disease, and how well they deliver preventive care, including cancer screenings and immunizations. The rankings will be free from October 4 to November15.

One decision you may have to make is whether to choose an HMO or and a PPO. PPOs typically usually cost a bit more and have higher deductibles. HMOs have low deductibles or often no deductibles. However, you are usually limited to the doctors and hospitals in the plan network.

Another decision is whether to opt for a plan with a high deductible, often paired with a health savings account. Consumer Reports says there's a trade-off. The premiums are lower, but the deductibles can be as high as $5,000 or even $10,000 if you are buying a plan on your own.

No health-care plan is perfect. Weigh the pros and cons, and make sure you're choosing the plan that fits your needs best. And keep smaller insurers in mind.

In Consumer Reports' analysis, some of the top-ranked plans were with smaller companies.


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