If you're in the individual market for health insurance and want to be covered by New Year's Day, you have until Dec. 15 to choose your plan on the Affordable Care Act exchange.
Choosing a health plan is confusing, so it's understandable if you're tempted to just grab the lowest premium you can find.
But don't do it.
Depending on your family's income and health needs, you could come out ahead with a plan that has a higher monthly premium but that offers better coverage.
That's why it's worth going over the last year's medical expenses, looking for items likely to come up again, such as prescriptions for chronic conditions. No one can predict the future, especially if you have children, but some needs can be anticipated.
Here is a comparison of what two families of four - one with a few health issues and one with hardly any - would end up spending for health coverage and expenses under three different Independence Blue Cross plans. We are showing the lowest-cost HMO Bronze, Silver Proactive Value, and Platinum HMO plans.
Keep in mind that individuals and families with incomes below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($47,080 for an individual and $97,000 for a family of four) are eligible for a tax-credit subsidy that can reduce premium cost.
People buying a silver plan with incomes below 250 percent of poverty ($29,425 for an individual and $60,625 for a family of four) can lower the amount they pay out of pocket for deductibles, coinsurance, and co-payments with a cost-sharing reduction discount. But the discount applies only if you buy a silver plan - another reason the cheapest plan isn't always the best.