Paying a (relatively) low monthly fee on your health insurance may sound appealing, until you’re faced with emergency fees because your coverage didn’t include certain parts of service that you needed. If you’re in the market for a new (and affordable) health insurance plan, it’s worthwhile to evaluate your options and do serious research based on what specific needs you have. The last thing you’d want to do is unknowingly pay for add-ons that you don’t need or want or to find out afterwards that your plan doesn’t cover services you need. Here are some things to consider when shopping for affordable health insurance for yourself and your family.
- Shop around for the best plans. The internet can provide you with a list of health insurance options in your specific state. If you live in New York, for example, you can find a comparison here: http://www.ins.state.ny.us/health/chlthinf.htm. And, of course, residents of any state can look for affordable health insurance on sites such as eHealthInsurance which offers health insurance quotes and comparisons similar to the way that Travelocity offers flight quotes.
- Get insurance through a group to lower your costs. It’s no secret that companies, organizations and clubs get better deals on health insurance than individuals. Some universities, for example, offer group discounts to alumni. Even though the school won’t pay your premiums as an employer might, you can still benefit from a cheap health insurance plan through a group.
- Consider short term options. If you’re planning on (or hoping to) find a job soon, you may be best served by a short term health insurance policy. You can also consider using a COBRA from your old plan until you find a job that offers health insurance or taking out a plan with no long-term commitment. You may need to pay more per month for a short term option, but if you think it’s only temporary you’ll still see significant savings.
- Know your rights. In most cases, health related expenses aren’t tax deductible unless they exceed 7.5% of your salary. What many people don’t know, however, is that self-employed individuals can get tax breaks even when their health insurance costs don’t cross this threshold. Ask an accountant what the rules are in your area so that you can take advantage of these opportunities.
- Consider your specific needs. If you see doctors regularly you may want to consider a plan with a higher monthly fee instead of one with a higher co-pay. This way, you won’t feel stressed every time you think about going to the doctor. Likewise, if you need special services such as mental health services, you must make sure to inquire whether an affordable health insurance plan covers these expenses (and if so, how much they cover).
- Research the doctors that accept different insurance plans. You should never sign on for a health insurance plan without knowing which doctors accept it. Not only does this behavior increase the risk that you’ll have to go out of network to get good coverage, but it may prevent you from getting quality care on a regular basis. If you’re generally healthy get a list of primary care physicians in your area and don’t be afraid to call them for references. If you need special services check with those doctors as well.
In truth, there may not really be such a thing as ‘affordable’ health insurance for most people anymore. Even if you don’t see doctors regularly, you’ll likely pay a serious sum of money each month just in case you need medical care. Still, there are ways to limit the risks and expenses associated with health insurance so that you can enjoy a relatively cheap healthcare plan without compromising on too many services. The right research for your needs and geographic location can help make this decision painless.