How to find the best health insurance plan for you and your family : Shots

A long document labeled "health insurance" turns into waves as the document stretches across the screen. Two people in a small boat ride the "waves" of the document, fishing for the jargon like "deductible" and "copayment."

If you’re buying health insurance outside a job-based plan, you’re in luck this fall. After years of cutbacks and — some say sabotage — of the Affordable Care Act during the Trump administration, the Biden administration is pulling out the stops to help people find good health plans on HealthCare.gov right now — the open enrollment period starts this week. You will have more time to sign up, more free help choosing a plan, and a greater likelihood you’ll be eligible for subsidies to help keep down the costs of a health plan you buy via the ACA marketplace.

Still, picking health insurance can be hard work, even if you’re choosing a plan through your employer. There are a lot of confusing terms, and the process forces you to think hard about your health and your finances. Plus you have to navigate all of it on a deadline, often with only a few-week period to explore your options and make decisions.

Whether you’re aging out of your parent’s plan and picking one for the first time, or you’re in a plan that no longer works for you and you’re ready to switch things up, or you’re uninsured and want to see if you have any workable options, there’s good news. Asking yourself a few simple questions can help you zero in on the right plan from all those on the market.

Here are some tips on where to look and how to get trustworthy advice and help if you need it.

Tip #1: Know where to go

It’s not always obvious where to look for health insurance. “In this country it is a truly wacky patchwork quilt of options,” says Sabrina Corlette, who co-directs the Center on Health Insurance Reform at Georgetown University.

If you’re 65 or older, you’re eligible for Medicare. It’s a federally run program — the government pays for much of your health care. You might also be eligible if you have certain disabilities. For those already enrolled in Medicare or in a Medicare Advantage plan, the open enrollment period to switch up your supplemental health and prescription drug plans for 2022 runs through Dec. 7 this year.

For those under age 65, Corlette says, “the vast majority of us get our coverage through our employer. The employer typically will cover between 70% and 90% of your premium costs, which is pretty nice.”

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Transgender patients find health care on Rutgers student’s app

Imagine checking in for an appointment with your primary care doctor, and you notice your forms show the wrong gender marker. You might feel confused, hurt, question how well your doctor knows you or how to offer you proper care. 

Transgender, nonbinary and other gender diverse people fear instances like this when they seek health care, like a nurse calling their wrong name or receiving incorrect treatment because of their outdated gender marker. Finding providers who know how to treat non-cisgender people would be ideal, but that’s not a simple feat.

Typing key words for transgender-affirming care in a search engine calls up LGBTQ-specific providers. It’s more difficult to find everyday health care services, like dentists or primary care doctors, who respect and understand gender diverse patients.

Creators behind an upcoming app, TranZap, want to make that search simpler for gender diverse people seeking care. 

Gender-affirming providers are not only doctors who perform plastic surgeries or administer hormone replacement therapy. They’re doctors, nurses, front desk staff and everyone in a medical office who know how to respectfully care for gender diverse patients. 

Second year Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School student Taylor Chiang is beta testing TranZap, an app that allows transgender people to review healthcare providers as a way to help other trans people find medical professionals who respect their identities. Chiang developed the app concept and is pictured with their mentor, Dr. Gloria Bachmann, a professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Associate Dean for Women Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Some resources exist that help transgender people find plastic surgeons or endocrinologists who affirm people’s gender physically. Taylor Chiang, a second year student at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School who came up with TranZap, wants people to find “gender-affirming [providers] to get regular old routine care.”

“A big barrier to health care is being afraid that you’re going to be discriminated against or not knowing information,” Chiang said. “Whether or not a primary care provider is gender-affirming, that information is lacking.”

Transgender people face a high risk of physical and mental health problems, but are “consistently and systemically underserved by the American medical system,” a Center for American Progress report reads. Some 62% of transgender respondents said they worried about being judged based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in health care settings, according to TransPop survey results.

Second year Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School student Taylor Chiang, not pictured, is beta testing TranZap, an app that allows transgender people to review healthcare providers as a way to help other trans people find medical professionals who respect their identities.

Chiang experienced uncomfortable conversations surrounding their identity in health care settings before. They typically searched for providers who accepted their insurance, or heard about affirming providers via word of mouth. Sometimes, they “risked” the provider lacking knowledge about caring for and talking to transgender and gay patients. 

They had connections to transgender people seeking similar care, but they wondered about gender diverse people who didn’t have that community, who struggled to find health care. That

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