Pick a Better Health Insurance Policy

Use our strategies during open enrollment to get the best coverage at the best price.

Private health insurance on a wooden surface with glasses.
(Image credit: designer491)

For years, health care costs have been marching steadily upward, and insurers have been raising premiums to keep pace. You can expect more of the same in 2019. The average cost of employer-provided medical and drug benefits is expected to rise 5% next year, according to the National Business Group on Health's survey of large employers -- the sixth consecutive year of 5% increases. But your choices during open enrollment may look a little less bleak because many employers are offering more coverage choices, larger contributions to health savings accounts and new tools to help you reduce your costs.

If you buy coverage on your own, you may have been pummeled by massive rate hikes for several years. But premiums are finally stabilizing and even dropping in some states. In several states, you may have more insurers to choose from as new companies enter -- or return to -- the health care exchanges. If you earn too much to qualify for a subsidy, you have several new plan options that carry lower premiums—but also extra risks.

Whether you get your health insurance from your employer or on your own, the following strategies can help you get the best coverage at the best price.

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How to Get the Best Employer Health Coverage for 2019

Most people get their health insurance through their employer, and even though the options are usually better and the premiums more stable than for people who buy their own coverage, their premiums and deductibles have been rising steadily. But if you follow these simple strategies, you may be able to increase your coverage and decrease your costs.

How to Get the Best Individual Health Policy in 2019

The options are very different if you are buying insurance on your own. After a tumultuous few years—when many insurers stopped selling individual health insurance or repeatedly boosted premiums by double digits -- the market is turning around. More insurers are selling individual policies again or expanding into new counties and states, and now fewer areas are left with only one insurance option. Here's what you need to know.

How to Make the Most of a Health Savings Account

Higher health insurance deductibles have a silver lining: You can contribute to a health savings account. To qualify, you must have an HSA-eligible health insurance policy with a deductible of at least $1,350 for individual coverage or $2,700 for family coverage -- whether you get insurance through your employer or on your own.

Also, this powerful account provides a triple tax benefit: Your contributions are tax-deductible (or pretax if made through your employer), your money grows tax-deferred, and you can use the money tax-free to pay deductibles, co-payments, prescription drug costs, out-of-pocket dental and vision costs, and other eligible expenses.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.