How to Shop for Individual Health Insurance

If you find yourself in the position of shopping for an
individual health insurance policy, there are certain things
you’ll want to keep in mind. Whether you are coming out of
a job that covered you before, or are at the end of your
COBRA benefits, or simply have never had coverage before
there are things you can do to get coverage on yourself and
your loved ones.

The basic thing to know is that if you have a shot a group
health insurance, whether through a job or an association
you’re a member of, that is usually much more affordable
than buying individual health insurance on your own. First
you need to figure out your health insurance goals; in other
words, what are you after? If you’re young, healthy as a
horse, no dependents and not attempting Mt. Everest next
week, you may want to opt for a policy that covers only the
catastrophes, and cover the rest out-of-pocket. On the flip
side of that, if you’re the sole bread winner with a family
to support, the scenario is different.

The basic choices you’ll have are Fee-for-Service, Managed
Care Plans, and Association-based health insurance. Fee-for-
service is the traditional indemnity plan, harder to
acquire, more expensive, but usually great coverage.
Managed care plans include most HMO’s and PPO’s. These offer
lower costs but your choices are somewhat limited. Another
way to get insured is through a group or association you
may already be a member of, such as professional, religious
or trade organizations. Often they may offer health
insurance. It’s worth checking out, as sometimes you can
strike gold in this vein.

Things to consider when you’re looking for any policy are
what’s covered on this plan, how much are the monthly
premiums, what is the yearly out-of-pocket, what is the
deductible, how much are office visits, does it cover
preventative medicine, vision, dental? And I’m sure you can
come up with many of your own. Sit down before you go
shopping and make a list of your needs and wants, and decide
in advance what you’re willing to give to get. Be aware that
once you start getting quotes they can vary as much as 50%
for the same person! Remember, you’re shopping, and nobody’s
making you do anything. If one insurer isn’t cutting it,
move on to another. If you’re coming at this cold and have
no good recommendations it may be wise to use a broker who
represents several companies, as he or she wil be more
likely to find the best policy for you, as opposed to
selling the company they work for.

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