Finding the best health insurance plan can be stressful, but with so many plans out there, how do you know which one will work best for you? Some plans are cheap but not all that great and some are expensive but worth every penny.
To make things easier, we’ve created a guide on what the best health insurance looks like and what to consider when making your decision!
Decide on a Budget
Establishing your budget should be a fairly straightforward process.
First, determine how much you can afford to spend on health insurance.
Then decide what types of coverage and services you’re looking for. If you have dependents, include them in these considerations as well.
Once your budget is in place, compare health insurance plans that fit within your cost parameters; try to find one that matches both your personal and financial needs.
As part of your comparison process, check into any employer-sponsored health plans—these may be cheaper than what’s available elsewhere.
Decide How Many People You Need to Cover
If you’re self-employed, you can try buying individual insurance if your income isn’t too high.
But it’s likely that a single plan won’t provide enough financial protection for you and your family.
A good alternative is to buy a small business policy from a national provider like UnitedHealthcare or Blue Cross Blue Shield.
If you’re launching a startup with co-founders, employees, contractors or freelancers in your network, consider getting group health insurance—and look into health savings accounts (HSAs).
People who qualify for HSAs can open an account that their business will pay into each month (sometimes both employee and employer contributions are possible), which can then be used to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Understand Deductibles and Copays
One of your most important tools when shopping for health insurance is understanding your deductible and copays.
A deductible is what you pay out-of-pocket each year before insurance starts to pay anything; a copay (or coinsurance) is what you pay every time you get medical care.
Take care not to confuse these two—if you’re not paying attention, they can sneak up on you and cost hundreds or thousands of dollars over a lifetime of coverage.
For example, let’s say your plan has a $500 annual deductible.
Compare Plans Based on Benefits
When you compare plans, don’t just look at prices.
It’s also important to find a plan that fits your unique needs and provides coverage for health services that are specific to your age and medical history.
By figuring out what services you’ll need and comparing plans based on those benefits, you can determine which health insurance plan is best for you and your family.
Here are some things to think about when reviewing plans
Know your coverage limits
There’s no denying that having health insurance is a good thing. For example, if you’re in an accident and need to get treated quickly, you don’t want to worry about how much it will cost.
Likewise, if you need expensive procedures or medications that insurance can help cover, having coverage gives you peace of mind.
But all those benefits come with limits and exclusions.
Do you need more benefits?
All health insurance plans are required to cover certain services and treatments, but some policies also provide a lot of additional coverage.
For example, your plan might cover prescription drugs if you’re 65 or older.
Or it might let you see any doctor in your network, regardless of whether they’re in your primary care physician’s network.
If you choose a plan with more benefits than what you need, you’ll pay more out-of-pocket when it comes time to use those benefits.
So make sure that your health insurance policy has at least as many benefits as you want or need before making a decision on what kind of policy to buy.
It may help to work through our checklist below so that choosing a plan is as easy as possible for you.
How much do you want to pay?
You’ll be able to save money if you only want a plan that covers catastrophic expenses.
If you’re willing to spend more money for greater coverage, then you can find a plan that allows you to choose your primary care physician, allows you a greater selection of hospitals and limits out-of-pocket expenses.
If it makes sense for your health care needs, getting additional riders like dental and vision might be worth it as well.
How much are you going to pay? That decision will have an impact on which type of insurance is right for you.
How long will it take to recoup costs?
It’s not just how much you pay per month, but how long it takes to recoup your costs when buying health insurance.
Ask about premiums and deductibles, as well as a list of in-network hospitals for out-of-pocket maximums.
Make sure you understand all your options before making a decision, because in some cases (depending on where you live), there may be public health plans or those from smaller companies that may offer better coverage at lower costs.
Shopping around is a must before signing up for any policy.
Signing up is easy (but time consuming) – here’s how
Since you want a health plan that will allow you to quickly and easily select individual plans, I recommend shopping on healthcare.gov rather than looking at insurance companies’ websites.
Start by clicking on Shop & Compare Plans in blue at the top of healthcare.gov.
Then look over your choices – they’re all from participating insurers – and decide what suits you best.
You can search for exactly what you want or see if there are options that come close, using filters for age, family size, income level and tobacco use, for example.
Best health insurance companies
If you’re new to your career, most likely you don’t have a preexisting condition, so coverage and premiums will be pretty affordable.
Another perk: If you’re single and in good health, it’s also much easier to find an affordable plan.
You can buy an individual plan directly from an insurance company or through a state or federal exchange (depending on your circumstances).
You can expect to pay up to $200 per month for quality coverage at all.
Major insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna offer plans that start under $50 a month for healthy individuals who are 25 years old.