While there’s still a majority of Americans who take out their health insurance through a work or similar group sponsored plan, there’s a growing trend of people looking to sign up for tailored individual policies. Navigating the complex minefield that is health care insurance plans for individuals can be at best tricky and at worst rather daunting, but with perseverance and plenty of research it’s quite possible to find a program that offers more suitable independent insurance. Here we’ll take a look at the key factors to consider when looking for an individual insurance plan, and provide a few examples and useful resources too.
Weigh Up What Coverage You Need
Before starting to search and compare plans you need to consider what coverage you’re willing and able to sign up for. A healthy 25 year old is likely to be more willing to take out limited insurance because they have no underlying conditions and often less money to allocate to insurance; whereas a 55 year old may have ailments and be worried about their future care, yet have the resources to pay for more expensive universal coverage. It’s not an easy decision but when taking out individual coverage it’s the most important aspect to consider – and also one of the reasons why so many people who can do stick with group sponsored schemes.
Searching For Individual Health Care Insurance
The internet is your friend here and there’s plenty of comparison websites that offer structured and detailed searches to find the most ‘suitable’ provider on your behalf. Yet be aware that almost all of these have preferred clients, and may not search all of the options out there – this is why they often advertise discounted schemes or add-ons for certain conditions or prescriptions. Patience is important – perform multiple searches on different platforms to find an aggregate. Bear in mind also that policies and products on offer vary enormously depending on which state you are in – check with your local state government that any insurer you consider are registered as being allowed to operate in your area. State insurance exchanges are a good place to start, then take a look at sites such as:
Check Eligibility For Special Programs/Extended Coverage
Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP are all designed to assist people who cannot afford private insurance plans, and it’s worth checking via your state exchange to see if you may be eligible should you fall into this bracket. People have recently left an employer may still be eligible to remain on their group insurance at a rate cheaper than taking out private policies, often for 18 months under COBRA. This is a useful buffer while seeking new employment and/or healthcare arrangements.
Are ‘Catastrophic’ Plans Suitable For You?
This relates to the first point we looked at – are you in good enough shape to be unlikely to need to use your policy? These limited policies often have very limited cover and high deductibles before any pay-out ($6k+), so it’s wise to think very carefully about it first. These can work well for some people alongside a healthcare savings fund that allows tax free income to be put aside to cover payouts in case of medical emergency.
Things To Look Out For In Policies
All policies differ in what they offer, usually because some insurers have ties with local service providers and may arrange discounts directly with them. On the flip-side where health coverage options are limited, premiums will rarely be discounted – especially in rural areas.
When looking for a policy always check the following:
- Is there any eligibility to enroll on a family insurance plan or a partner’s work program?
- Are routine doctor appointments included? If so how many?
- Choose realistic options. At 50 are you likely to need paternity cover? At 20 will you be visiting ER often?
- Does the policy ‘reward’ over time? This is important, as often insurers will reward high premium payers with discounts over the years – especially valuable as you grow older and are more likely to need medical services.
A Little More Can Go A Long Way
It’s a simple reality that in many cases looking for the lowest premiums isn’t really all that savvy, as the coverage will be especially limited, often to such an extent that should illness or accident occur the additional costs which the policyholder will be liable for can become stratospheric. Often the difference between rock-bottom cover and the middle tier isn’t that much – sometimes the difference between $200 a month and $250 can include much lower deductible payments, and include emergency treatment and prescription costs. Eligibility for applications varies enormously nationwide and geography/coverage will play a major part in determining what options are available.