Choosing a health plan


–Linda Stern is a freelance writer. Any opinions in the column are hers. You can follow Linda Stern’s financial notes on Twitter at –

Washington’s health-care reform debate could go on for a while, but who can afford to wait?

In the next few months, most employees will have to choose a health insurance plan for 2010. Others may face job loss and the loss of employer-provided benefits, or are newly emancipated — graduated and unemployed — young adults who need to find their own coverage.

They all have this in common: The likelihood of higher premiums, more confusing choices, and more policy “gotchas” that can limit, or even kill, their coverage after they’ve paid those costly premiums. And, the need to nail down coverage before Washington acts. Here’s how to make smart health insurance decisions while hoping that Congress does the same.