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How to Pick the Best Health Plan for the Whole Family

Choosing health insurance for a family used to be easier, with fewer options and fewer households where parents were each covered by their own workplace plans instead of picking a joint one. But now more and more families must make a choice at every open enrollment period about how to cover the kids due to the advent of surcharges and exclusions for covering spouses who have the option of their own workplace insurance.

As of 2015, 17% of large employers have implemented or increased surcharges for spousal coverage. Half are considering doing it in the next three to five years, according to benefit consultant Aon Hewitt.

Eight percent have eliminated coverage altogether for spouses with other options, and 45% are considering doing so. Deciding on health insurance for the kids is further complicated by the myriad of plans available today. They just keep evolving as health care law changes and costs keep rising—up 4.2% for 2016, according to benefit consultant Mercer .

“Now it’s a lot more difficult because of network issues and deductibles,” says Kathy Paez of the non-partisan American Institutes for Research.

Making the decision even harder is today’s complicated family life. Do you choose a plan from one of the parents? One of the stepparents? Instead of two plans, a family could have four options, all with different costs and benefits.

Here are three of the top considerations: