The First Part of Our Free Health Insurance Guide – Finding and Comparing Plans
Choosing the right health insurance means considering three factors: health care needs, budget and preferences. Needs include things like upcoming orthodontics, anticipated pregnancies or changes in age bracket that will require additional screenings.
Budgetary considerations include not just premiums but co-payments on clinic visits and emergency care as well as those on medications.
Some consumers have strong preferences about things like seeing a specialist without a referral from a primary care physician. Thinking about these factors makes choosing health care a little less complicated.
Determining Coverage Needs
The health care plan that would be most appropriate for a family with young children would be unlikely to suit a single person or a pair of empty nesters; plans for them would probably be totally different. Shopping for health insurance may seem like an insurmountable task, but by starting with an analysis of actual needs it can become as simple as a stroll in the park.
The first step is to make a list of the health care procedures that everyone in the family will require. Physical examinations and annual vaccinations are a good starting place for young families. Older consumers might start with a list of each family member’s medications instead.
After that, add things like maternity and pediatric care for a younger family, or vision and prescriptions for older people. Equally important is another list, this one of coverage options; customers who are not sure what options are desirable should ask friends and colleagues for advice, since they may well have faced the same challenge.
Fitting the Coverage to the Budget
Few insurance shoppers can afford to ignore budgetary concerns. Choosing wisely means considering how much can be spent on monthly premiums, co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses.
The premiums and deductibles associated with health care are quite costly. Financial considerations must always be kept in mind when choosing insurance. High deductibles mean low premiums, but this can be a risky proposition in an emergency when a family must hand over that large chuck of cash. Deductibles must be paid before insurance companies cover a claim, and most health care providers want them in advance.
Managed-care plans may be the best health insurance choice for customers looking to keep premiums low. This coverage limits members to in-network providers, but it does keep costs under control. The more choice an insurance plan allows, the more expensive it is likely to be.
Comparing Health Insurance Plans
Having established the coverage desired and the amount to be spent, the shopper can start asking for quotes from health insurance companies. One important thing to remember is to get the quote in an email or fax or in writing. This is tangible proof of exactly what the representative promised.
Customers should get at least three quotes from different companies to make sure none of them are way out of line on price or coverage. Finding large discrepancies is a red flag; it usually means that the shopper has missed something.
Consumers should not be reluctant to ask representatives about unfamiliar terms or unclear conditions; their job is to explain these things, and an unwillingness to do so may indicate that the customer is being taken advantage of.
Insurance Costs – Rates & Deductibles
The complex variation of health care deductibles could confuse the most sophisticated shopper. The rate paid for coverage and the deductible that must be paid before insurance kicks in are independent, but they work together to get customers the best insurance solution at an affordable cost.
The premiums that an individual pays each month for health care coverage are called rates. They vary tremendously according to the type of coverage, the company that issues the policy and the health of the person covered, particularly after a survey and health exam before obtaining a proper quote.
Monthly rates increase as coverage is added for dental, life, vision, prescription drugs or any other extras. Rates can be lowered by maintaining good health and getting quotes from a variety of providers. The reason rates vary so much is the increased risk of companies that require no pre-insurance surveys or examinations.
The money that policyholders pay to health care providers before their insurance begins to pay is called a deductible. The amount of the deductible can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.
Deductibles are intended to keep the insurance system solvent by discouraging people from seeking medical attention for minor conditions such as stuffy noses or stubbed toes. Requiring a deductible lets insurance companies deter people from attempt to abuse the system.
Rates and deductibles are different things, but they work together to help consumers achieve the best insurance coverage that still fits within their budget.
Rates and deductibles engage in a budgetary balancing act: if the rates are high, the deductible is low, and the reverse if rates are low. This leaves consumers with room for decision-making. Someone who faces the likelihood of large medical bills will find it best to accept high rates to get a low deductible. This requires a higher payment every month, but substantially lowers the initial investment in health care.
Conversely, customers who take care of themselves and do not expect to max out their policy can accept a high deductible to keep their rates reasonable. This gets them health care coverage in the event of a dire emergency, but protects the insurance company from paying out a lot of small claims over the life of the policy.
These two options illustrate the way that insurance companies encourage responsible use of health care. Those with a greater need pay more to start with, but pay less out of pocket. Others who need not rely so heavily on insurance can keep it for emergencies, knowing they will pay more when they do use health care services.
Many insurance providers will provide quotes for both options, allowing the consumer to evaluate each and think about their own circumstances before deciding which way to go. Customers who have any questions about any aspect of their coverage should not hesitate to ask, as insurance companies are eager to clarify.