to shop for an individual health plan
Finding an individual
health care plan that meets your medical needs and doesn't break your budget isn't
"There's a lot of variation in price. You really do
need to shop very, very carefully," says Trudy Lieberman, director of the
Center for Consumer Health Choices at Consumers Union.
To land a good
deal you'll need to be a super-savvy shopper. This
worksheet from Bankrate.com will help you compare plans.
sure to pinpoint when a health plan's medical benefits actually kick in. Most
hospital costs happen within the first 48 hours. If your insurance policy doesn't
cover those hospital costs, you could get zapped with a really hefty hospital
"When does the policy become effective?" asks
Pat Schoeni, executive director for the National Coalition for Health Care. "If
it doesn't become effective until the fifth day in the hospital, it really doesn't
Ask for a summary of policy benefits. You
may be able to find these online. And this is a quick way to compare plans between
Read the fine print
As awful as it may sound, it's important that you read a health care policy in
"You've got to look at the small type in
the policy," Schoeni says. "Exclusions -- therein lies the rub. That's
what you need to read."
Not sure where to begin your search
for individual health care?
Contact your state insurance department
and ask for a list of carriers that sell individual health care policies in your
state. Some states even offer a consumer insurance guide to assist with your shopping.
state insurance department can also tell you about laws and consumer protections
in your state. Since insurance is regulated at the state level, it's important
to understand the laws in your state when shopping for insurance. This
map links to each state's insurance department.
good source of state insurance information on the Web is Healthinsuranceinfo.net
from Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. This site has consumer guides
for getting and keeping health insurance in each of the 50 states and the District
Interested in getting the most bang out of your insurance buck? Start by checking
out plans from your local Blue Cross Blue Shield organization as well as local
HMOs. These plans tend to offer good benefits without breaking your wallet.
way to curb health care costs is to choose a plan with a higher deductible. The
higher you set your deductible, the lower the price of your premium.
health plans come with $250 to $300 deductible. By opting for a plan with $1,000
or $3,000 or even $5,000 deductible, you can really knock down the cost of your
premium. The downside? You could end up paying thousands of dollars of medical
expenses out of your own pocket if you fall ill.