5 Tips to Buy Affordable Health Insurance

By: Keith Crovatt

Affordable health insurance is a must even when you follow a fitness program. Eating right and exercising regularly goes a long way to extending our life. We all should have regular health checkups. For many people, affordable health insurance is too costly.

Most Americans get health insurance through their jobs or are covered because a family member has insurance at work. This is called group insurance. Group insurance is generally the least expensive kind. In many cases, the employer pays part or all of the cost.

Some employers offer only one health insurance plan. Some offer a choice of plans: a fee-for-service plan, a health maintenance organization (HMO), or a preferred provider organization (PPO), for example.

What happens if you or your family member leaves the job? You will lose your employer-supported group coverage. It may be possible to keep the same policy, but you will have to pay for it yourself. This will certainly cost you more than group coverage for the same, or less, protection. You must seek out affordable health insurance on your own.

A Federal law makes it possible for most people to continue their group health coverage for a period of time. Called COBRA (for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985), the law requires that if you work for a business of 20 or more employees and leave your job or are laid off, you can continue to get health coverage for at least 18 months. You will be charged a higher premium than when you were working.

You also will be able to get affordable health insurance under COBRA if our spouse was covered but now you are widowed or divorced. If you were covered under your parents' group plan while you were in school, you also can continue in the plan for up to 18 months under COBRA until you find a job that offers you your own health insurance. More often than not, this coverage is pretty expensive. If you have a pre-existing condition though, this may be better than the market pricing.

Not all employers offer affordable health insurance. You might find this to be the case with your job, especially if you work for a small business or work part-time. If your employer does not offer affordable health insurance, you might be able to get group insurance through membership in a labor union, professional association, club, or other organization. Many organizations offer affordable health insurance plans to members. Also, check out local credit unions and chamber of commerce groups for affordable health insurance coverage.

If your employer does not offer group insurance, or if the insurance offered is very limited, you can buy an individual policy. You can get fee-for-service, HMO, or PPO protection. But you should compare your options and shop carefully because coverage and costs vary from company to company. Individual plans may not offer benefits as broad as those in group plans.

If you get a non-cancelable policy (also called a guaranteed renewable policy), then you will receive individual insurance under that policy as long as you keep paying the monthly premium. The insurance company can raise the cost, but cannot cancel your coverage. Many companies now offer a conditionally renewable policy. This means that the insurance company can cancel all policies like yours, not just yours. This protects you from being singled out but it doesn't protect you from losing coverage.

Before you buy any affordable health insurance policy, make sure you know what it will pay for...and what it won't. To find out about individual health insurance plans, you can call insurance companies, HMOs, and PPOs in your community, or speak to the agent who handles your car or house insurance. Also, search the internet for many affordable health insurance companies that will give you multiple quotes free.

Here are 5 tips when buying affordable health insurance:

1. Shop carefully. Policies differ widely in coverage and cost. Contact different insurance companies, or ask your agent to show you policies from several insurers so you can compare them. Make sure the policy protects you from large medical costs. Compare the on-line sites for fast turn around on affordable health insurance.

2. Read and understand the policy. Make sure it provides the kind of coverage that's right for you. You don't want unpleasant surprises when you're sick or in the hospital. Many contracts have subtle limitations, exclusions and out of pocket costs that will bury you going forward.

3. Check to see that the policy states: the date that the policy will begin paying (some have a waiting period before coverage begins), and what is covered or excluded from coverage. Pre-existing conditions, children and the possibility of starting a family can increase your costs.

4. Make sure there is a "free look" clause. Most companies give you at least 10 days to look over your policy after you receive it. If you decide it is not for you, you can return it and have your premium refunded. Get all promises and pledges in writing!

5. Beware of single disease insurance policies. There are some polices that offer protection for only one disease, such as cancer. If you already have health insurance, your regular plan probably already provides all the coverage you need. Check to see what protection you have before buying any more insurance. Do you only want to cover 1 disease going forward?

In summary, by researching the internet, talking with your family and friends, you will select the absolute best affordable health insurance available for your family.

Health Insurance
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