When you enter the phrase “health insurance” in an Internet search engine, more than 200 million pages are returned. Why? Because there are more than 50 million people in the United States who have no health coverage whatsoever. They are not only unprotected in the event of a medical emergency, but they are living one step away from potential bankruptcy. More than half of the personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S. are caused by medical debt. The stumbling block, however, is always the same — affordable rates. Can you find health care coverage that is both comprehensive and inexpensive? The answer is simple: Yea, with a methodological approach. Begin with the basics, such as your personal situation and needs, and go from there. This may sound counterintuitive, given how many people make a health insurance choice purely based on price. However, finding a plan that really fits will minimize what you pay throughout the life of the policy.
Finding Providers Online
If you modify your Internet search and look for “affordable health insurance,” you will only bring your results down to 10 million pages. Does this mean you can’t find quality health insurance information online? No. It does mean you need to use the right tool to get multiple rate quotes for comparison and research. The only way to locate affordable health coverage is to do your research and find a company that offers the right combination of price and protection you and your family require.
Avoiding the High Priced Providers
There is a tendency among consumers to go with brand names they know. This is true in the grocery store aisle, and it’s also true with insurance shopping. It’s important to remember, however, that larger insurers are big enough, and have enough of a customer basis, that they can often adopt a “take it or leave it approach” with rate quotes. You don’t have to go with a major provider, if a smaller company offers you a better rate, a comprehensive plan, and has a strong financial position. Remember, you never just research the insurance, you also research the insurer.
Providers Who Care
Many smaller companies are actively working to get new clients and are more willing to offer creative insurance models. By using your state insurance board’s website, or by looking at insurer profiles compiled by A.B. Best, the industry standard rating agency, you can get an idea of the financial position of the company you are considering. You want to make sure the company can actually afford to pay your benefits when you need them.
Provide a Little Competition
Never be afraid to negotiate. When you’re armed with multiple rate quotes, you can introduce the element of competition in your discussions about a coverage plan. You also want to negotiate based on the coverage elements that are most important to you. If you want complete freedom to choose your own doctor, for instance, you’re probably not going to be a good candidate for an HMO health policy, which will alter the rate levels you’ll be discussing.
Analyze your lifestyle
Do you work in a high-risk job, or sit at a desk all day? Do you prefer white water rafting or knitting in your spare time? For those who lead sedentary lifestyles, reside in safe areas, and take little bodily risk, a plan that focuses on routine care and health maintenance and prevention might fit. Alternatively, those who are active, athletic, or accident prone may consider plans that make provisions for sports medicine and well-priced acute and emergency care.
Understand your current expenditures. By understanding your current spend on different categories of health care product, you will optimize your health insurance choice by choosing a relevant plan. Do you spend most of your money on prescriptions? Co-pays? Do you buy a great deal of over the counter drugs? Knowing this kind of information can guide you around whether you are better off with extras like HSAs, and will help you understand your ideal participation level.
Anticipate your health care needs for the next five to ten years. Though you may be perfectly healthy now, take the time to brainstorm predictable life changes. Do you have a plan to start a family soon? Are you approaching an age group that has heightened risks for certain diseases? By being mindful of the changing phases in your life while making your health insurance choice, you will set yourself up for success.
Many People are in Need of Insurance
Over the past two years, insurance rates in the United States have gone up 8 to 9 percent due to industry changes put in place in response to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Only portions of the health care reform program have actually been enacted, however. The legislation won’t be fully in effect until 2014, and, there is a pending Supreme Court review of elements of the law. In the interim, millions of Americans are living without health insurance, and millions more are under-insured. Given the rocky state of the American economy, any degree of coverage you can afford is to your benefit.
Don’t simply assume that you can’t afford health insurance coverage. Do your research online and get a basis for negotiation before you move forward. You can start on this page simply by entering your zip code in the provided form. Only by “running the numbers” can you make a real assessment of how health insurance can fit into your own financial landscape.