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Where can I find cheap health insurance?

woman thinking health insuranceThere probably is no such thing as “cheap” health insurance in America today. Companies claiming to offer “low cost” insurance products are often failing to apprise consumers of the low coverage limits and lack of comprehensive benefits that accompany many “streamlined” or reduced priced programs.

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If there is no “cheap” insurance, where can I find better rates for my health coverage?

Never shop alone! For most Americans, the secret behind obtaining the lowest possible health insurance rates is to shop with a group of individuals with similar needs! Health insurance programs are designed to be the most cost efficient when purchased by a group.

For sole proprietors or small business owners, a group can have only one or two members and still qualify for reduced insurance rates.

So, what happens when I leave my job?

Under Federal COBRA regulations, when leaving the employ of a group insurance provider, you must be given the opportunity to continue your medical insurance, on your own, with no lapse in coverage for a full sixty days after the termination date of your company’s coverage.

What the COBRA legislation doesn’t spell out in plain language is that the insurance company will no longer be obligated to offer you the same coverage at the employer group rates. If you want to continue coverage, you will pay the insurance company’s higher individual rates. This could easily double your monthly premiums!

What are my options if I choose not to continue my coverage with COBRA?

While you must be offered the opportunity to continue your coverage, you are not obligated to accept that coverage and should immediately begin to investigate and shop for other health insurance packages.

But if I don’t have a job, how do I find another group?

Tens of thousands of people, all across the country, have asked this question, and in response have either formed their own groups or joined new or existing groups of like or similar minded people.

Historically, this is how many insurance companies and organizations were formed to begin with. By people sharing their common needs for protection and joining for their mutual aid and benefit.

What kinds of groups are there?

The kinds of available groups are too numerous to mention in this brief article, but virtually any membership based group can offer the benefits of group insurance discounts. Membership groups include, but are not limited to:

  • Fraternal organizations
  • College and university alumni groups
  • Civic and community groups
  • Governmental groups
  • Trade unions

Many nationally chartered organizations such as the AARP offer discounted group insurance benefits to its general membership. Clubs and hobby groups with large memberships also may offer these benefits and services. Insurance companies, looking for new business, approach groups all the time.

What if I can’t afford a regular health insurance policy?

Medicaid is the government sponsored health program for America’s lowest income families. While the application and approval process is complex and lengthy, once approved, Medicaid will usually pay for 100% of covered services.

What can I do if I earn too much to qualify for Medicaid?

Healthy New York is an example of a state-sponsored program that bridges the gap between those who qualify for Medicaid and those with group plans thorough employers or other outlets. Plans like Healthy New York offer basic coverage with several options through local insurance providers such as Blue Cross, Excellus, or Preferred Care.

Eligibility is determined by income and premiums are set by the state for each local area. Premiums for these state subsidized programs can be less than half of normal individual rates and are often cheaper than employer group premiums for the same level of coverage.

In most states, special low-cost programs for children are available.

What do I do if I’m retired and over 65?

Older adults, past the age of 65, are covered under the government sponsored Medicare program. Medicare however, provides a subscriber with only basic benefits and coverage. Medicare recipients should shop for supplementary programs to help cover costs beyond what Medicare will pay for. These programs vary from state to state, but are generally inexpensive.

Seniors may also subscribe to a variety of membership programs, which provide discounts on many health related services. These are not insurance programs, but they are efficient ways to save money on health and wellness services and other products. These memberships may be free or available for purchase at a nominal cost.

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