Health Insurance Tips
With all the talk about healthcare reform, it seems like a new expert pops up all the time with advice on how to find the right coverage. In reality, despite major changes to both group plans created by employers and individual policies, the same questions have always helped people make this important decision. Before selecting your plan, consider these six health insurance tips:
Know where you live
Every state has different regulations, which leads to a wide range of prices and coverage options. Some states have laws in place to ensure no one is denied coverage, making rates higher across the board. Understanding the requirements imposed by state law will not only define how much your premium is, it will also help you find out if there are lower-cost alternatives available through government agencies.
Determine what is most important to you
Identifying your needs is crucial to determining the right insurance plan for you and any dependents you may have. Would you like to stay with your current doctor? Are you taking medication for an ongoing condition, like diabetes? Do you prefer one hospital over another? Figuring out what your necessities are will help you eliminate a large number of plans which do not fit the bill very quickly.
Look at what you can afford
After you narrow down the possibilities to those policies that cover your needs, it’s time to consider the financial questions. Most people choose high-deductible plans as a way to keep premiums low. However, this may leave holes in your coverage, so be sure to look at all your options. It may be possible for you to supplement a lower-cost plan with insurance specifically for accidents. Or, take the money you save by having decreased monthly payments and put it into a Health Savings Account (HSA). For those with a qualified high-deductible plan, tax-deferred money can be set aside to grow until you use it – making it ideal for those who make an annual visit to their doctor and little else.
Talk to someone in the know
Whenever you’re trying to sort through a large amount of information and make an important decision, it’s helpful to consult with an expert. You can probably find the answers online through state or federal insurance regulation offices, but you might prefer talking with someone face-to-face. If you’re getting a plan through your employer, speak with the human resources director or plan administrator. When looking for coverage through a private provider, an insurance broker, who has access to several companies’ plans, may be the right person to help you find the best deal for your needs.
Take some time to look over the reports from the National Committee for Quality Assurance or other consumer groups, too. You might discover some problem areas for the different providers before you make your decision.
Reevaluate every year
Many people forget to look through their policy when the annual benefit period starts over. This is a great time to ask whether the plan continues to offer what you want and, if necessary, consider other companies. Have your needs changed? Has the plan altered its co-payments or limits on out-of-pocket maximums? Are there benefits to the group plan your spouse’s employer offers that make it more attractive? Spending time answering these questions will ensure you have the best coverage at the most affordable price going forward.
Take care of yourself
Many employers are beginning to offer incentives to workers that enroll in healthy lifestyle plans, helping them to lose weight and quit smoking. Taking advantage of these opportunities to improve your health while choosing to get proper nutrition and exercise will give you many long-term benefits: you’ll have better cardiovascular health and enjoy a stronger immune system, too. As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When that cure is a potentially-expensive medical intervention with minimal health insurance coverage, you can be sure that tip is right.