A growing number of people are buying individual health insurance for the first time. No matter if you are unemployed, fresh out of college, in between jobs, or uninsured for another reason, you need to know what goes into buying a high quality policy.
As confusing as the industry may be, buying a policy does not have to be a long and stressful process. Instead, there are 10 steps you can take to ensure your success.
1. Research the industry, including companies and commonly used terms, so that you know what you are doing. If you have never purchased health insurance before, you may not know the first thing about the industry. This is your chance to learn more about each company as well as the components of an individual policy.
2. Evaluate your situation. Once you prioritize your needs you can begin to weigh the pros and cons of the many policies that are available to you. During this time, you can ask and answer questions such as:
- How much can I afford to spend on health insurance every month?
- Do I need insurance for a spouse and/or child as well?
- Which company has the most flexible in terms of the policies being offered?
3. Get the advice of others. Do you know somebody else who pays for his or her own health insurance? Have you taken the time to read reviews online? You may be surprised at all the information you can find.
Highmark Direct, for example, now has retail stores in some states. With this, you can schedule a one on one meeting with a knowledgeable health insurance representative. Talk about great advice!
4. Be honest on your application. Although things may change in the future, right now you have to be concerned with pre-existing conditions. If you have been healthy your entire life, you don’t have anything to worry about. On the other hand, if you have a pre-existing condition you need to share this on your application. Lying is not the answer. At some point in the future this will come back to haunt you.
5. Ask the right questions. Even if you are shopping for health insurance online, you still have the chance to communicate with a live agent. This is your chance to ask questions, share your concerns, and become more comfortable with what is being offered. You should never buy any sort of insurance policy until you know what you are getting for your money.
6. Compare multiple policies side by side. Once you have your “final three” in place you can go through a side-by-side comparison. During this time, focus on details such as the premium, deductible, co-pays, number of in-network providers, AM Best rating of the company and anything else that is important to you.
7. Don’t shy away from short-term coverage. Do you really need to purchase a health insurance policy that you can keep for an extended period of time? If the answer is no – maybe because you are in between jobs – you are better off with a short-term policy. This will help you save money, not to mention the fact that the approval process is typically much quicker.
8. Don’t wait to make a purchase. The longer you put this off the more you believe that you don’t need coverage. Along with this, the longer you wait the better chance there is that you will eventually get sick and be stuck with a medical bill.
But I am waiting for the government implemented changes to kick in!
While this may be something you are looking forward to, you never know what the future holds. If you need coverage now you should buy coverage now, regardless of what you believe will happen in the future.
9. Be patient. This may contradict step #8, but it is important that you exercise extreme patience as you shop for a policy. This is a big step in your life, both financially and from the perspective of your health. Make sure you know which policy is best for you as well as what you are getting if you decide to buy.
After you decide on a policy, you will be sent all the necessary paperwork by email, fax, or snail mail. Be sure to keep a hard copy of your policy. This will come in handy as you seek medical care and begin to receive bills for service.