Our health needs can change each year, and so can health plan coverage choices. So it’s important to understand your health care options to find coverage that fits your needs and budget.

Annual or open enrollment season is here, a time when more than 7,098,000 people in Arizona and millions of Americans across the country will have the opportunity to select or switch their health insurance plan for the coming year. 

For people with employer-provided coverage, open enrollment typically occurs within a two-week period between September and December. Those eligible for Medicare can enroll or make changes to their coverage from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. For most people, changes made during this time will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

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To make the most out of open enrollment this fall, here are seven tips to consider when choosing a plan that may lead to better health and cost savings in 2022.

1. Understand your options. Whether you are selecting a plan for the first time or evaluating how well your current one meets your needs, take the time to understand and compare the benefits, services and costs of each plan, so you can find what will work best for you. A good first step is to make sure you understand health insurance lingo, such as premium, deductible, copays, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximums. If you need a refresher, check out this quick guide to help decode the terms.

• If you’re eligible for Medicare, as you weigh your options, ensure you’re familiar with the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. If you need a review, visit MedicareMadeClear.com — an online resource with answers to questions about eligibility, plan choices, cost basics, prescription coverage and more.

2. Check your prescription benefits. Knowing how to get the most out of your prescription benefits may help you manage costs. For example, check into lower-cost alternatives that may be available, like discounts, generics and more. You may also be able to fill your prescriptions at a participating network pharmacy or with home delivery by mail — two more money-saving options.

• For those on Medicare: You may be surprised to learn Original Medicare doesn’t generally cover prescription drugs. Consider adding Part D or a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage to help keep your medication costs in check.

3. Anticipate next year’s health expenses. If you are expecting a significant health event in the next year, such as surgery or the birth of a child, compare the differences between plan designs, including out-of-pocket maximums.

4. Consider a plan with the convenience of virtual care. If you’re busy juggling kids’ schedules and work responsibilities, traveling, or you simply prefer to connect with a doctor from the convenience of your home, consider choosing a plan that includes 24/7 virtual care. These visits are designed to be an easier, more affordable way to talk to doctors about common health issues, using a smartphone, tablet or computer.

• Virtual care is often available to members of employer-sponsored, individual and Medicare Advantage plans and may provide access to various types of care, including wellness, routine, urgent and chronic condition management.

5. Check for mental health coverage. Managing your mental health is an important step in caring for your overall well-being. In addition to in-person care, you may now be able to access a large virtual health network of therapists and psychiatrists with many plans — including UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Advantage for a $0 copay. Some health insurers, such as UnitedHealthcare, also offer advocacy services to help you find the right therapist and type of care.

6. Look into wellness programs. Many health plans now offer incentives that reward you for taking healthier actions, such as completing a health survey, exercising or avoiding nicotine.

• Many Medicare Advantage plans also offer gym memberships and wellness programs for members at no additional cost.

7. Don’t forget about specialty benefits. Additional benefits, such dental, vision, hearing or critical illness insurance, are often available to help protect you and your family, while contributing to overall well-being.

• For Medicare beneficiaries: You may be surprised that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services, but many Medicare Advantage plans do.

For more helpful articles and videos about open enrollment and health care plans, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com.

Heather Kane is CEO, Employer & Individual, for UnitedHealthcare.