2008 Insurance Guide
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insurance
Buying private health insurance

As companies cut corners and more entrepreneurs strike out on their own, the individual health insurance market is growing.

"There's been a precipitous drop in the number of businesses offering coverage," says Sam Gibbs, senior vice president of eHealthInsurance.com, an online insurance broker. (To compare insurance policies and quotes, visit Insureme.com, a Bankrate company.)

These days, the same people who traded company pension plans for self-managed 401(k)s are being asked to take on one more chore that used to be handled by human resources: shopping, selecting and purchasing health coverage. And it can be daunting. Check out some of our readers' experiences.

Plowing through the process

Rob Snow put it off for over a year. When he left a successful online company at 39 to start Bethesda, Md.-based Snow Portfolio Management, he took advantage of COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which allowed him to remain on his old company's group plan as long as he paid the premiums. But that privilege extends only for 18 months. And he was nearing the deadline.

Finally one weekend, Snow sat down at the computer, typed in "health insurance," "and got a million hits," he says. "I probably spent an entire day scrolling through those. I got worn out. I probably didn't do anything for three weeks."

But he eventually went back to the computer, zeroing in on a few sites that allowed him to get quotes or compare policies.

His pick was a regular PPO plan with a high deductible that also allowed the family to keep the same doctors -- one of his wife's must-haves. "There's no way she was ever going to change pediatricians," he says. And the monthly premiums were $603, a savings of as much as $435 per month for their family of five.

"One of the reasons I probably saved as much as I did was that we're all, thankfully, pretty healthy," says Snow.

"Not everyone is lucky enough to be in that situation," he says.

Not surprisingly, when you're buying health insurance, your health is a key factor.

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