Finding the best health insurance plan

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Most Americans opt to sign up for health insurance if they can since employer-sponsored plans are often the least expensive choice. But even if you qualify for health insurance at work, there are decisions to make about which plan you want, the size of your deductible and whether you need optional coverage like vision insurance or dental insurance.

If you are unemployed or your employer does not offer health insurance, you will need to search for individual health insurance quotes or find group health insurance through a member organization to which you belong, such as AARP. Alternative choices for health insurance include health care cooperatives and direct-care medical homes that provide medical services for a monthly membership fee.

At work, some employers offer benefits such as a health savings account that can save you money instead of a traditional health insurance plan. Some employers allow their employees to choose between an HMO, or health maintenance organization; a POS, or point-of-service plan; or a PPO, or a preferred provider organization. As you shop for a health insurance plan that’s best for you, you should consider factors beyond the monthly premium.

Compare these three factors to understand the differences between health insurance policies: your contribution to the premium beyond your employer’s contribution, your additional out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays, uncovered expenses and your deductible, and the level of coverage.

Consumers with health problems should be particularly careful when researching health insurance policies to be sure they will be able to obtain the coverage they need and work with specialists if necessary.

As a supplement to your health insurance, you may be able to enroll in a flexible spending account that allows you to set aside pretax dollars to pay for medical costs that are not covered by your health insurance.

Comparing health insurance policies based on premiums and coverage will provide the best protection for your medical and financial needs.