Health care open enrollment season: Consumer Reports tips

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Consumer Reports has just released its analysis of more than 1,000 health care plans, and offers some top questions to consider before you choose. (KABC)

The annual open enrollment period for many health insurance plans is now underway, or about to start for others. That's the time when you can make choices about your health coverage, whether it's through work, Covered California or a private Medicare plan.

Consumer Reports has just released its analysis of more than 1,000 health care plans, and offers some important questions to consider before you choose.

Consumer Reports experts say even though health insurance is tricky, don't just renew the plan you have.

"There are some basic things that everyone needs to look at no matter how you get your insurance. One is, What are the cost-sharing provisions of the plan? The deductibles? The co-pays?" said Nancy Metcalf, Consumer Reports.

And be sure to check the annual out-of-pocket limit. It's the most you'd have to pay in a year.

Also, check out which doctors and hospitals are in your plan. Choosing a smaller or narrow network can save money.

"However, if you have an ongoing relationship with providers who aren't in the plan, it might not be for you," said Metcalf.

And if you take prescription drugs regularly, especially costly ones, study the plan's formulary (a list of preferred drugs) to make sure yours are covered.

Consumer Reports has analyzed more than a thousand private, Medicare and Medicaid health insurance plans ranked by the NCQA, a nonprofit quality measurement and accreditation organization.

"Our rankings look at overall quality, customer service, how well the plans deal with common conditions like asthma or diabetes," said Metcalf.

The rankings also spotlight plans that help you avoid overused or unnecessary care, like having a CT scan that you don't need.

For those who need to buy health insurance through Covered California, remember the open enrollment period begins November 15 and goes until February 15, 2015.

You can find the free health insurance rankings on Consumer Reports' website. They include insurance plans available through employers, as well as private Medicare Advantage plans. The free rankings are available at

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