With healthcare costs on the rise, people across America are looking for ways to find the perfect plan that doesn’t break the bank. The average annual premium for employer-based family coverage rose in 2018 by 5%, and it’s not showing any sign of slowing down.

When this high price is combined with the complicated landscape of the insurance marketplace, finding the best plan feels downright impossible.

What are individuals and families to do? The reality is that having health insurance isn’t optional. You need to protect your health and your wallet by staying prepared. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here is a guide to the best advice for choosing your perfect health insurance plan.

Know Where to Look

First, you need to know where to look for insurance. Most people get insurance through their employer, and this is an easy way to find an affordable plan. Since employers cover a portion of the cost, you usually get a better deal.

However, it’s always worth shopping around to make sure you aren’t overlooking a plan that works better with your needs and budget.

The most common alternative to your employer is your local health marketplace. These health exchanges sometimes cost more unless you search exclusively in the Affordable Care Act marketplace. This is a federal marketplace that shows the insurance plans with the lowest premiums in your area.

Finally, beyond any online marketplaces or your employer-offered insurance, you can also purchase a plan directly from an insurer. This won’t qualify you for any premium subsidies (an income-based discount), but it might be the more flexible choice depending on the care you need.

Understand Insurance Plan Types

One of the most challenges aspects of choosing the right coverage is understanding the plan types and terminology. These plans seem to be called the most complicated names that are intended to confuse you during your search.

Don’t settle for confusion. Let’s take a closer look at what these different plan types mean.

Health Insurance Plan Types

  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) – With an HMO, you need to stay at in-network providers to get the best cost of care, except in the case of emergencies. This will usually be a lower-cost plan, but it does have limitations if you expect to need specialist care.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) – You don’t need to stay with in-network doctors with a PPO, but you’ll pay less for health services if you do. This is a flexible choice.
  • Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) – Like an HMO plan, you will need to stay with an in-network provider. However, you won’t need a referral to see an outside doctor.
  • Point of Service (POS) – Finally, a POS plan does not have an in-network doctor requirement, but you’ll pay less for in-network doctors. However, you’ll need to choose a primary care doctor who coordinates your care.

Do You Need a Supplemental Plan?

Sometimes, after you’ve chosen a plan, you realize you need additional coverage. While traditional health insurance plans offer basic medical treatment, they don’t cover everything.

Not only will you still have out-of-pocket costs, but you might not be eligible for coverage for treatment beyond basic health services.

A supplemental plan adds another layer of protection, whether you need dental insurance, vision insurance, or disability insurance.

While not everyone will need a supplemental plan, think about the type of lifestyle you lead. It’s always better to have more coverage than less coverage. For more information review this guide: Supplemental Health Insurance 101.

Your health is the most valuable thing you have. Don’t risk it by skipping health insurance. Once you’re educated in the process, you’re empowered to choose a plan that’s right for you. Make a choice that protects your future tomorrow.