Navigating open enrollment season

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It's open enrollment season, and millions of Americans are reviewing and selecting their health benefits for the next year.

While open enrollment happens every year, the benefits keep changing, so experts say it's important to pay attention to materials you've given to learn more about your coverage choices.

If you were hoping that your health-plan costs would stay the same next year, you're probably going to be disappointed.

According to the Wall Street Journal, employees enrolling in health coverage for 2012 should expect to shoulder more of the responsibility for their health costs, with higher out-of-pocket expenses, particularly higher deductibles, and at least small increases in premiums.

Open enrollment is also underway for Medicare.

It started a full month early this year and extends only until December 7th. So, if you're accustomed to having through the end of the year to choose your plan for the next year, take note.

Making changes after December 7th could cost you a late-enrollment penalty.

The earlier timetable was set so that patients would have new paperwork and cards in hand when their plan changes take effect, which is January first.

Experts say it's important to see if you plan has changed, and if so, are your doctors and drugs still on the list?