woman in chair wants to buy health insuranceThe question of whether or not you should buy health insurance depends on many factors including individual need, family need, financial ability and access. Because health care costs have and continue to rise, securing health insurance can help you and your family enjoy the comfort and security of being covered in the event of medical need.

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Unfortunately, many people remain uninsured despite available options. According to a Center for Disease Control study, 18% of adults under age 65 are not insured.

Where can I buy health insurance?

Several different companies provide coverage for individuals and families. Many options exist as to the type and extent of coverage you can buy, including coverage for:

  • Preventative visits
  • Elective surgeries
  • Prescription medication
  • Screenings

You can contact any health insurance company and ask if they offer insurance to individuals. In addition, you can contact your local social services office to get a list of companies.

The more extensive the coverage, the more expensive it will be. In most cases, purchasing insurance on your own is more expensive than buying it through an employer. Most health insurance products offered to individuals must be paid in advance, and have other costs such as co-pays and deductibles.

Should I get health insurance through my employer?

Yes, if you have the ability to apply for health insurance through your employer, you should take advantage of the offer. Most of the time, health insurance through an employer will be substantially less than trying to buy it on your own.

This is because employers are able to negotiate rates and costs with the companies because they are insuring a large number of people. Even if there is a cost associated with the health insurance, most employers pay at least 50% of the total health insurance premium cost and some may pay the entire 100%.

Is there low cost or free health insurance available?

Yes, there are several products available for little or no cost. Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus are two comprehensive health insurance programs that are designed to be affordable and attainable for people who do not have health insurance and do not have access to a plan through work.

These free and low cost plans do have some limitations. They include:

  • Using specific physicians and other health care providers
  • Going to certain hospitals
  • Only being able to get access to generic prescription medications

However, many of the free and low cost insurance programs offer complete preventative care at no cost and with no co-pay. Sometimes, in order to maintain coverage, you must take part in all the necessary preventative care.

This includes:

  • Yearly well-child visits for children
  • Annual OB/GYN visits for women
  • Vaccinations such as flu shots and chicken pox vaccines

What are co-pays and deductibles?

Co-pays are a portion of the cost that the patient is responsible for paying. As an example, many office visits with a specialist require the patient to pay anywhere from $10 to $50. Although this amount is usually a small percentage of the total cost, it represents a commitment on the patient’s part to the care.

Deductibles are another part of a plan. In some instances, you have to pay for all your health insurance costs until a certain amount has been met. For example, some health insurance plans can require that you incur and pay for $2,000 of health care expenses before your coverage goes into effect.

While this may seem expensive, there are many instances when medical costs can run $10,000 or more, so having health insurance, even with a deductible, is still important.

Can I pay for medical costs out-of-pocket?

Yes, if you choose not to have or purchase health insurance, you can pay for any medical bills yourself. Many times, if you require a major surgery or have another procedure within a hospital, the hospital will work with you on the cost if you are paying yourself.

This is because most hospitals negotiate costs with insurance companies for certain procedures all the time, and will be willing to work with you as well.

In addition, many more medications are now available over the counter, so even if you do not have prescription coverage, you can still purchase medication.

While not having health insurance can be difficult, you can always receive care for a life-threatening condition even if you are not able to pay by going to a hospital emergency department.

However, if you have an opportunity to purchase health insurance, or even if you can only qualify for the low cost insurance, it is always best to be covered in case of a catastrophic illness or injury.

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