(Healthline) – Picking a healthcare plan can be a nerve wracking endeavor. You have to balance what you can afford in monthly premiums, co-pays, and annual deductibles, while trying to make sure you have enough healthcare coverage that you don’t dread a trip to the doctor.
This is tricky for everyone, but often more difficult for people without employer coverage who are navigating the open marketplace in search of the right healthcare plan.
With this in mind we talked to experts about what you can look for in a health plan so that it can provide enough coverage without being overly taxing on your wallet.
And this is the perfect time to find a plan that fits your needs and saves you money, since open enrollment for plans on the federal exchange starts November 1.
What to know about the rise and fall of premium cost
The average premium for the benchmark healthcare plan on the Affordable Care Act health exchange is expected to drop by 4 percent next year, reports CNN.
This is compared to annual premiums for family health coverage obtained through an employer. Those premiums are up 5 percent from last year, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Other out-of-pocket expenses are also on the rise, including deductibles for employer coverage. This is the amount you have to pay before your insurance begins covering most services.
The news that premiums are down for plans on the ACA healthcare exchange is good news for anyone who doesn’t qualify for employer coverage, Medicaid (for lower income), or Medicare (those 65 years and older).
If you want to lock in these savings, you’ll have to act soon.
The open enrollment period for the federal HealthCare.gov and state insurance marketplaces runs from November 1, 2019 through December 15, 2019.
This is a fact that apparently 88 percent of Americans may not know. But it’s crucial to keep that timeline in mind if you’re interested in getting your plan from the open marketplace.
If you miss the deadline, you’ll have to wait until next year to apply, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period. This applies to major life events like having a baby, getting married, or losing your health coverage.
Navigating the sign up process and comparing healthcare plans can be complicated, so it’s best not to wait until the last minute to start.
Caitlin Donovan, senior director of public relations at the National Patient Advocate Foundation, recommends that you “give yourself a few hours to really look over the different plans.”
Also, if you’re a little fuzzy on the difference between premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance, you might want to brush up on your health plan lingo. This Healthline tutorial will help you become fluent in no time.