Your Most Important Fall Purchase Is Health Insurance

Ah, autumn — a time for pumpkin spice, football games, and decisions about deductibles. Nov. 1 began the six-week window for Americans to sign up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act; fall is also a common open enrollment period at workplaces. Politically, health care in the United States has always been a third rail, and things are especially turbulent now. But there are a few things to keep in mind as you shop around over the next few weeks, whether you're a freelancer or an employee.

NerdWallet has put together a clear, simple post explaining the various ins and outs of why your workplace health care costs what it does and what you can consider cutting. Keep in mind that many of these plans are tax-advantaged accounts, meaning that you don't get taxed on the money taken out of your paycheck to pay for them. The cheapest plans tends to have a high deductible, which is what you pay before the health insurer takes over your costs; if you are generally healthy, this may seem like a natural choice for you. Always check in with your human resources department if you have any questions about choosing different plans or what the terminology means. You may even enjoy special perks, like coverage for wellness classes.

Meanwhile, freelancers might be pleased to know that thanks to a weird legal loophole, in many state health exchanges, insurance might actually be cheaper for you this year. Single people who make $48,240 or less and don't get insurance through an employer may qualify for big subsidies when buying coverage through a state marketplace or healthcare.gov. Since the sign-up period is very short this year, make sure you take care of your health insurance before Dec. 15.

Finally, if your deductible winds up prohibitively high, don't pass up medicine you may need because your insurance doesn't go far enough. GoodRx is an app and website that can slash prices on prescriptions with no strings attached. Health insurance is a pain to organize, but the rest of your year will be a lot easier once you get it done.