More Americans are buying their own health insurance, but the process can be tough. There are ways to make sure you understand what you’re buying, and that you get the product that’s best for you.
The web is a good place to start in researching your eligibility for various government programs or, if you are losing coverage because of a layoff, continuing workplace benefits through the federal law known as Cobra.
If you are going to buy your own insurance, you can start your research with Web sites that explain the basics, such as healthinsuranceinfo.net, and healthcarecoach.com. They will help you understand the concepts and language of health insurance, which aren’t always easy to grasp, and should give you some sense of the questions to ask about any plan. Then you can noodle around on Web-based brokerages that sell health insurance and get estimates based on limited anonymous information.
But without guidance, it can be tough to fully understand the nuances of a plan and how it compares to other options.
When you examine policies, don’t just look at premiums. Figure in other fees you will face, such as a percentage of the cost of doctor visits. Make sure you understand the policy’s annual out-of-pocket maximum, meaning the most you might have to spend in a year, since certain charges might not count toward the total. Some insurers require you to track your own spending and tell the company when you have reached your maximum, which might be a headache.
Read the fine print about your deductible, which is the amount of money you must lay out before your insurer starts paying. Some policies may have multiple deductibles, including one for each family member. Insurers may also not count certain costs toward the deductible.
Never underestimate the benefit of a good insurance agent - as your needs change over time, they will become one of your best advisers.
First-time purchasers should strongly consider consulting an independent agent before buying to compare their advice. You want an agent who represents a number of major insurers, rather than just one company. An agent should learn your financial limits and any health issues.
An agent should help guide you toward the insurer most likely to accept you. An agent also should help you fill out the application. But make sure that you know what’s in the application and that it is accurate.
Finally, you should expect your agent to continue advising and helping you even after you purchase a policy. If you aren’t satisfied, you can change agents.