The enormous selection of health plans for consumers in most states can be very intimidating. After the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) came into session, Americans could now choose to sign up for a policy directly through a carrier or they could choose their state’s insurance. With these new options, Americans now have a lot of health plans to sort through. To make sure you get the best option out there, you’ll need to take a lot of time before you choose your plan and prioritize your needs. Do a little research on the different types of plans before you make any hasty decisions. Follow the following steps to help you get through the scary buying process:
Determine Your Insurance Needs
That may seem like an obvious step, but most consumers actually forget about this step and just look for plans with the lowest premium. You may have heard the saying: “You get what you pay for”. Don’t forget that this applies to buying insurance as well. Cheap insurance looks very appetizing when you don’t have an emergency, but when that inevitable emergency comes, your cheap insurance will quickly become expensive because it doesn’t cover the hospital visit. It is strongly advised to write a list of things that you need in your health plan before you begin to do research on specific plans. Maybe you want to keep your doctor because you really like him, or maybe you want a certain elective procedure and want to select a health plan that could help pay for it. Either way, you’ll probably want to select a plan that has both a good monthly premium and deductible.
Know Your Options
Consumers who buy individual coverage have two alternatives: they could buy a policy through their state’s marketplace (Health Insurance Exchange) or they could buy plans through a supplier. You may want to keep in mind the following characteristics of buying: Plans that are sold through the health insurance exchange have to cover “essential health benefits”. This includes maternity care, hospitalization, emergency services, and ambulatory care. This might mean that they are a better deal than other plans, which are sold separately, but it could also mean that you are paying for something you may not use (maternity care). Also, the only way to use income-based insurance subsidies is purchasing a health plan through the health insurance exchange. If you make under $95,400 as a family of four, or $46,680 a year as an individual, you are qualified for relief in the form of a tax credit. As an added bonus, filling out the application for income-based insurance subsidies will also tell you if you are eligible for Medicaid, which provides affordable care for low-income Americans. Keep in mind that all of these benefits don’t naturally mean that plans sold outside the exchange aren’t a better deal. Because of the federal guidelines that include all of the things that the health plans have to cover, health plans sold separately can be cheaper because they don’t offer things that you may not need. If you are too intimidated by all of the choices of health plans, you may want to take advantage of an insurance broker. Insurance brokers are compensated by the insurers, so you can use their services for no cost.
Find out What’s Covered
Health plans offer very different services and you’ll need to have an understanding of what you need and what is covered before you decide. Exchange-based plans offer essentially all the same health benefits, but even with them, you’ll have to pay for additional services. Health plans also differ in which doctors and hospitals they will allow you to visit. Many health plans are restrictive in which doctors they want you to visit while some policies will let you choose any provider you wish. If you really like your current doctor, do a little extra research and see if they are fully covered by your health plan.
Look At the Complete Cost
If you choose a health plan purely because of its low monthly premium, you won’t have as many things covered and it will actually end up costing you more because you’ll have to pay out of pocket for any emergency or tests you’ll need done. If you’re young and healthy, you may be willing to take that chance, but you may get peace of mind if you pay a little more monthly to know you’ll be covered in case of unexpected health problems.
It’s probably worth your time to look at plans sold both on and off the exchange to see which is the best value and what offers what you specifically need in a health plan. Keep in mind that the marketplace’s open enrollment period is just three months long, so don’t wait too long and be sure to take advantage of it.