7 top health insurance buying tips

Laurie Bouck | April 22, 2011

Whether you're on Medicare and looking for supplemental health insurance, or looking for low cost health insurance for yourself, the more you know about your options the better.

These seven tips can help you make the best insurance choices for your health and budget:

  1. Learn your state's rules: Medigap and individual policies can vary by state. Learn about your options by contacting your state's insurance department. And if you're planning to move to a different state, find out what benefits health insurance plans might - or might not - be required to cover there.
  2. Do online health insurance research: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on prescreened health insurance plans in every state. Other reliable resources include such commercial websites as Insure.com. Take the time to look at all your insurance options.
  3. Check your professional organizations: Check whether a professional organization, religious organization or union you belong to offers good rates on supplemental health insurance or individual health insurance. If you are self-employed, your state might give you access to group health insurance as well.
  4. Consider a health insurance broker: A licensed insurance broker can help you find a plan that fits your needs. If you decide to use a broker, the AARP points out that independent brokers sell multiple health insurance plans from multiple insurers, while other brokers just work for one insurer. Find out how your broker structures their business. You can find a broker through the National Association of Health Underwriters.
  5. Check health insurance company backgrounds: The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends checking with your state's insurance department before you choose a health insurance plan. Make sure the insurer is licensed and ask your state's insurance department how the insurer has handled complaints. You can check the licenses of your state's insurers and health insurance brokers through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
  6. Learn insurance pricing structure: In Insure.com's "Tips for buying individual health insurance," Cheryl Leamon, Blue Cross Blue Shield Anthem spokesperson, suggests finding out a plan's monthly premiums, yearly deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses. Also find out whether these costs will increase in the future. If you're looking for supplemental health insurance, Medigap policy pricing can also vary, so choose carefully. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services suggests applying for Medigap during your open enrollment period (after you enroll in Medicare Part B), in order to get the best rates.
  7. Find out what services are covered: Find out whether your current health care needs will be covered, and what coverage you will have for services such as specialists, prescriptions, medical treatments, and emergency room visits, Leamon says. Also check whether your current health care providers accept the health insurance you choose.




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