Health insurance can be expensive and shopping for the best one can be confusing, but there are ways to cut down on the costs. Here are some tips to help you shop for the best health insurance.
Tip 1: Gather your information
Before shopping around, it’s important to make sure you have all of your current coverage information—including what benefits are covered and what your premiums, co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums are.
This is also a good time to update or verify your existing policy terms.
You may want to keep paper copies in case anything gets lost in cyberspace, or if you change providers and need records from your previous insurer.
Gather all of that information ahead of time so that when it comes time to look at prices, any offers can be compared on an apples-to-apples basis (and hopefully in plain English).
Tip 2: Speak with an Agent
You may not think of yourself as a shopper, but when it comes to shopping for health insurance, you are.
You’re taking out a big-ticket item and you want to make sure it’s worth your money.
The same rules apply to comparing policies as they would if you were shopping for a TV or an iPad.
Before even looking at plans, start by speaking with agents from each carrier. Often, these agents will have access to more than one plan (for example, Aetna might offer two plans that cover your doctors).
They’ll also be able to answer any questions about coverage specifics.
Tip 3: Don’t wait too long
Health insurance premiums are due on a monthly basis, so if you’re not paying attention and miss your deadline, you’ll have to pay late fees.
It can be hard to keep track of deadlines, especially if your coverage year doesn’t start on January 1 or July 1.
The best way to make sure that deadlines don’t sneak up on you is to choose a coverage start date that matches when your employer processes its new-employee paperwork.
A few days before then, call your insurer with any outstanding paperwork questions.
If all goes well, the carrier will notify your employer directly about your enrollment (many employers run their own preferred provider organization plans) and in turn will receive confirmation of membership directly from them.
Tip 4: Compare plans
When you’re searching for health insurance, compare plans based on price and coverage.
Typically, more expensive plans cover more types of care and are considered gold-level or platinum-level; cheaper plans are known as bronze-level or silver-level.
Plans from different carriers may offer very similar coverage—for example, a silver plan from one carrier could be virtually identical to another carrier’s bronze plan.
There is no one set of criteria that makes a certain level best; it’s all about weighing your needs against your costs and selecting accordingly.
Make sure to check that any prescriptions or services you need are covered before purchasing!
Tip 5: Make sure your plan fits your Needs
People buy all kinds of things by accident. You can easily avoid that happening with your health insurance.
If you don’t have a medical condition, there’s no need to buy extra coverage for prescription drugs and co-pays.
On the other hand, if it turns out that your business is going to pay most of your insurance premiums, getting a high deductible may actually be a smart choice because it allows you to save on taxes.
And if your business doesn’t cover disability? Make sure that policy will cover what yours doesn’t.
Tip 7: Keep it in perspective
How many times have you gone into a store or restaurant with a certain item in mind, only to be sidetracked by something else that looks great?
The same principle applies when shopping for an insurance plan: You should focus on your main goal, which is likely getting quality coverage at a good price.
Once you’ve decided on one factor—say, price—you’ll find yourself leaning toward companies that provide high value without sacrificing other features (such as customer service).
How to Shop for the Best Health Insurance?
Even if you don’t have a job, or if you lose your job and your employer-sponsored health plan, coverage is still available.
You can apply for individual medical coverage through an online marketplace by your government.
Each state sets up its own prices for insurance plans to provide individuals with more affordable options; some states offer subsidies based on income to offset costs.
But before shopping around, there are a few things to consider first: Do I have any pre-existing conditions? If so, insurers may deny me coverage altogether.
If not, my monthly premiums could be significantly higher than others. What kind of coverage do I need?
Best Health Insurance to Shop for?
Health coverage is a very personal thing.
You need to make sure that whatever policy you get not only provides adequate medical care but also fits your budget and family’s needs.
Check out our which health insurance is best for me quiz to help figure out what makes sense for your particular situation and goals.
The results may be surprising; just because a plan covers an expensive service like maternity doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a better choice than a less costly option with fewer bells and whistles.
It really comes down to identifying your needs, finding plans that align with them, and then deciding which options are right for you.
Buying Health Insurance on your own
Buying individual health insurance is a big decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
You’ll be in charge of choosing your own plan and your provider, so if you don’t spend some time researching your options, you might end up paying more than necessary or signing up for coverage that doesn’t match your healthcare needs.
That said, there are many good reasons to buy an individual plan even if it means assuming more risk.
Whether due to job changes or other life circumstances, sometimes it just makes sense—especially when doing so will allow you to save a lot of money on premiums.