Find Available Plans
Look at the kind of plans that are accessible, and stay away from plans that do not allow for the flexibility of finding the right provider (doctor). Do not get trapped into monthly premiums that do not provide the best benefits available for the cost.
Remember to ask for advice. Insurance brokers can help narrow the search and they have access to multiple carriers. They will be able to provide an overview of the plans including features and services available to purchasers. Try to find a broker who works with many insurance companies so he or she will be able to show case several options.
When the list of potential carriers is narrowed, get quotes from the top companies. Ask doctors if they accept the insurance before buying because the doctor may not take the insurance. If so that is case, either pick another plan or pick another doctor.
And do not forget to ask friends and family if the carrier is a good company to work with? Consider online research and blogs as another source of information. Ask if they are respected in the industry and if they pay claims in a timely manner.
Another valuable source for finding insurance are the U.S. Departments of Insurance.
Plan Features to Consider
When searching an insurance plan, keep these things in mind:
- How are emergencies covered?
- Will the plan cover all medications needed?
- Does the plan allow for access to all doctors or only those in a select panel?
- Can all doctors be seen or only practitioners within a certain network?
- What are the levels of coverage while traveling abroad and domestically?
- How are dependents covered by the plan?
- Does the plan cover people who live in more than place at a time? For example, some retirees have second homes. Does the plan pay at the same level when the purchaser resides into two or more different areas?
- Are there co-pays? If so, what are they and are they affordable.
- Does the plan feature in- and out-of-network providers? If so, what are the levels of pay?
- Does the carrier offer a comprehensive set of easy-to-understand information including a thorough Web site, handbooks and customer service team?
- How are preventive exams covered? For example, mammograms, prostate testing, physical.
- How does the plan cover pediatrics, specialty medications and experimental drugs?
- What are the maternity benefits?
Before You Buy Health Insurance
Comparing health insurance coverage is difficult, but there are no standard insurance policies. Buyers need to know what they are buying. Once the policy is purchased, there is little that can be done to rectify and unpaid claim if the plan’s fine print states otherwise.
More expensive health insurance plans will pose less risk and provide greater flexibility. There will be additional risk and many additional restrictions the cheaper the plan. Most lower-cost plans have higher deductibles. Do not make the mistake of choosing a plan for its affordable premiums if the deductible cannot be paid.
Be cautious with affordable plans that restrict coverage. If the plan only covers a portion of hospital stays or drug costs, it is not worth buying.
Buying insurance is a personal decision, and purchasers should evaluate their medical needs when purchasing a plan. If the coverage is going to be used for emergencies only, then a cheaper plan may be the way to go, but if the plan is needed for medical maintenance, spending more on a plan may pay off long term.
Read the policy completely – it is a legal agreement. Keep all the paperwork.
Be sure the documents say the word insurance. Consumers sometimes buy health discount plans and incorrectly assume they are buying health insurance.
Ask lots of questions before buying. Make sure a broker or experienced insurance person helps answer all questions.
Don't Give Up Until Insured
Can’t find a plan? Do not give up. Check if any affiliated groups offer access to health insurance. Group rates are usually lower, so if a member of a union or trade association, there may be coverage available