Shopping for Health Insurance: What You Need to Know

Between the rising cost of health insurance and numerous types of policies, shopping for health insurance can seem like a daunting task. So how can you sort through all the chaos and find a policy to safeguard your health and maintain your budget?

Preparation and Education

Knowing the type of coverage you need before you begin comparing policies will make this task far less intimidating come shopping time. You and only you can identify the types of coverage you’ll need–from prescription drugs to covering pre-existing conditions, identifying your needs will help you to avoid purchasing more than what you need.

To learn more about the types of plans and benefits available in your area, contact the Division of Insurance (DOI) in your state. This underutilized resource is geared toward consumer protection and education and typically has downloadable articles and brochures to help you make informed decisions about your health and health insurance. And, when it comes to buying health insurance, knowledge is power!

Shopping Around

In most states, there’s no flat rate for health insurance policies. This means different insurers can sell similar policies for very different prices. While price disparities may seem like more work for you, these variations are really to your benefit. Obtaining and comparing multiple quotes and policies allows you to select a plan that meets both your health and financial needs.

So what exactly should you be comparing when shopping for policies? Here are a few major questions to ask:

How much is the monthly premium?
What’s the deductible?
What percentage of expenses is reimbursed after the deductible has been paid?
Does the policy cover all major medical expenses, including maternity costs?
Does the policy shoulder any costs for prescription drugs?
What coverages are included in the policy?
Does the policy cover chronic or pre-existing conditions?
Does the policy cover preventative care?
Are the doctors or facilities you frequent inside the insurer’s network?
How much will it cost you to be seen by someone outside of the insurer’s network?
Does the policy cover alternative treatment, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care?

While you will undoubtedly think of additional questions to ask, the questions above will help you to quickly stack different policies against one another–and get an idea which plan is right for you.

Protecting Yourself

As with all forms of insurance, it’s a good idea to investigate your insurer before signing a policy. You can check your agent’s credentials, as well as the insurance company’s customer satisfaction rating and financial standings through consumer-friendly companies like AM Best and the Better Business Bureau. Doing a little detective work before choosing a policy will save you the cash and heartache of dealing with an unreliable insurer.

You can also protect yourself by making sure your policy contains a free look period. Most reputable insurers will give you a 10-day free look period, which allows you to revisit the provisions listed in your policy. If you change your mind about the policy during the free look period, you are entitled to a full refund and the policy will be cancelled.

Always ask the insurer if the policy has a free look period. If not, you’re probably better off purchasing a policy from someone else. And remember: use your free look period to go over every detail of your policy. You won’t want any surprises when it comes time to file a claim!

Start Small

When it comes to purchasing health insurance, remember to start small. Get the facts from trusted sources, determine your needs and shop around for the best policy. Taking things one step at a time will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand–and help you choose the best policy to protect your health!

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