There are always new companies peddling their wares in the global marketplace. The newest insurance concerns are, more often than not, divisions of existing giant conglomerates, extending their reach by repackaging old products and by introducing new and hopefully more lucrative, products, and services.
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Over the last few decades, insurance organizations, like their brethren in banking, retail and many other industries, have tended toward forming larger and larger groups of companies. Mergers happen, conglomerates form, names change, and business continues as usual.
Consumers are only vaguely aware of these corporate maneuverings, noticing only when a new product or service name appears in the neighborhood. Advertisements ask consumers to dial a number or enter information in an interactive digital box in order to obtain more information about these supposed new consumer offerings.
So, what is new in the health insurance market?
The big news in health insurance is not from corporate America, but from the U.S. government, in the form of healthcare reform. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 followed a long and hard fought battle in Congress to reshape America’s health care systems. Benefactors are American families, workers, and retirees. Some of the key provisions of this legislation are:
- More protections and rights for consumers
- More choices for those needing health insurance or those with pre-existing health conditions who have been denied insurance coverage in the past
- More “bang for the buck,” as companies are now limited on how much money they may spend for advertising, marketing and administrative services as a percentage of premium revenues
- More and better access to eldercare services and expansion of the existing Medicare program
- Small business tax breaks and other new revenue enhancements for employers offering health insurance benefits
What should I consider in selecting health insurance coverage?
Consider the basics of health coverage before moving forward with any insurance purchase. Ask yourself, “What are my must-haves?” Try to anticipate some of your future medical needs such as maternity coverage or mental health treatment, as some policies do not cover these items.
Make sure you match your budget with your basic health plan, covering hospitalization and doctors’ visits at a minimum. You should plan on spending monies for health insurance co-pays and deductibles in addition to monthly premiums. Look carefully at out-of-pocket fees charged by various companies and make sure your company caps those expenses.
Remember, annual limits on coverage and services will remain in place for many insurance companies, until they are phased out in 2014.
One way to save money on health care is to open a flexible spending account or HSP, health savings plan, through your employer. These IRS approved plans offer significant tax breaks to families struggling to meet their health care financial obligations.
What are some of the newer programs in health care?
If you are a Medicare recipient, look for Medicare supplement programs. These supplementary plans will cover the costs that Medicare does not. They are usually affordable and readily available in most every community.
For those consumers looking to maintain their good health and vitality, more and more companies have begun to offer group wellness plans. Rather than insurance coverage, these membership plans provide discounts for gyms, fitness centers and other health related facilities.
Some membership groups feature discounts on therapeutic services such as massage or relaxation therapy, while other groups give discounts for non-prescription medicines, home exercise equipment, and other related medical supplies.
Is wellness important?
As most studies have proven, preventive medicine helps promote longevity and sharply decreases the risks of many common diseases such as heart and lung related disorders, and even some forms of cancer. Prevention is more than check-ups and vaccines. Prevention involves a healthy lifestyle with a proper diet and plenty of exercise.
How do I know if a company is reputable?
The best way to compare local companies is to talk with individuals who are familiar with their services and are comfortable referring you. To hear from other consumers, and see if any complaints have been filed against a particular insurer in your area, check with your local Better Business Bureau.
How can I comparison shop in my area?
Health insurance brokers can be an excellent source for comparison information. Brokers generally represent all health insurance providers in a given jurisdiction. Brokers’ fees are paid by the insurance companies, so there is no cost or other obligation to consumers looking for the best deal.
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