With unemployment at an all time high, many Americans are forced into finding an alternate solution for health insurance benefits. For those who don’t have an employer-sponsored health plan, individual coverage is the next option. Individual health coverage can be extremely expensive if you do not choose carefully. So, we’ve provided this checklist of ways to ensure you are getting the absolute best deal on your health insurance coverage.
1. Raise Your Deductible
This is especially applicable to individuals who are relatively healthy (i.e. do not have any chronic illness and are not generally susceptible to hospitalization). While this can mean more money out of pocket in the case of an illness or injury, it lowers your overall bills each month.
2. Double Check Your Doctors
You should check your plan before you commit to ensure that your preferred doctors are on your preferred plan. Most plans contract with a network of "preferred providers." If your favorite doctor is not in that network, your insurance may only cover part of the bill, or possibly cover nothing at all.
3. Separate but Equal
While most forms of insurance reflect bulk discounts, health insurance does not. In some instances, it may be more affordable to purchase health insurance plans individually for each family member. Age plays a role in determining how much your policy costs, so some individuals may be able to save money if older members of your family purchase their own health insurance policies and keep kids separate.
4. Explore Alternatives to COBRA
COBRA is a continuation of an employer-sponsored plan for a former employee, which can be beneficial to those with pre-existing conditions, but this is usually the most expensive way to go. If you are relatively healthy, and you can be approved for an individual health plan, purchasing an individual policy can be much less expensive.
5. Government Assistance Health Programs
Most individuals are aware that there is government assistance or welfare available for those at or below the poverty level. But some states offer programs for others as well. Usually, this assistance is in the form of a subsidy that will pay part of the premiums for traditional health insurance. Contact your state's insurance department for details.
6. Shop Around
Health insurance premiums can vary greatly, as much as 50 percent across different companies for the same coverage. Individual health insurance policies have different features and vary quite broadly from one another. In order to find the individual health insurance policy that best fits your needs, comparison shop and you can quickly see which health insurance policy is right for you.
7. Keep Your Eye Out for Additional Perks or Hidden Costs
Some individual policies may have additional penalties or benefits hidden in the fine print. It is important to ask your agent about additional benefits such as prescription coverage, program incentives or rewards for living a healthy lifestyle, dental coverage, or other added bonuses to enrolling. There can also be other hidden costs or penalties such as co-insurance, pre-existing condition restrictions, or age limits.
Enrolling in an individual health insurance policy can be stressful and quite expensive. This is a process that should be researched thoroughly and discussed in detail with an insurance agent. Protect your health and your wallet by carefully comparing the features and prices of each individual policy, and selecting the one that best meets the needs of your family.