Picking a good health insurance plan can be confusing. Here’s what to keep in mind

Open enrollment season is upon us, and it’s time to sign up for a health insurance plan for the next calendar year. But between the alphabet soup of acronyms and all those daunting data tables, it can be hard to figure out which plan to choose.

While we know this task isn’t as exciting as spooky szn or pumpkin-spiced everything, it’s important for your health (and will serve you a lot longer than that polyester Halloween costume).

The good news: Life Kit has expert advice to help take the scary out of this process. Here’s a cheat sheet of what to keep in mind as you make a decision.

Read your plan’s summary of benefits

The first step is to know what’s in your health insurance plan, says Tasha Carter, the insurance consumer advocate for the state of Florida. “Many consumers fail to take advantage of the benefits that are offered by their health insurance policy simply because they don’t know they exist – or even worse, they end up paying out of pocket for expenses that may have been covered.”

So, even though you’ve had the same plan for years, take a few moments to look over your plan’s latest summary of benefits. Health insurance companies are required to provide a summary of benefits and coverage written in simple language. If you don’t get it in the mail at the beginning of the year, log on to your health insurance website or call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask for it.

“Oftentimes, insurance companies make changes to benefits, so you want to make sure you understand what those changes are and how they may impact you” and your health, Carter says. Listen to our episode on how to maximize your health insurance coverage here.

Get a sense of your medical needs from a doctor you trust
That can dictate what kind of health insurance you might need in the coming year. “Having someone who’s been following you, ideally for years, is extremely valuable in helping you to make decisions” about your health care — and therefore your coverage plan, says pediatrician Dr. Nicole Rochester.