If you’re among the more than 160 million Americans identified by the Centers for Disease Control as purchasing health insurance through their employers, you’re probably familiar with the annual renewal period when you are allowed to choose new coverage options. However, in order to make intelligent decisions regarding your options, you need to know how well your health insurance compares with your other plans. You can easily find this out if you willing to spend a little time doing the necessary research.
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Comparing health insurance can be a dry and incredibly boring experience. But it can be extremely helpful in making you aware what types of coverage you currently have and the value of such coverage. For example, there are plenty of menopausal and post-menopausal women who are paying for expensive maternity care when they’ll never need it. Only by comparing health insurance policies on a regular basis will you be fully equipped to make intelligent decisions.
How do I compare policies and options?
Before you begin assembling policy details, you need to know what it is you’re looking for. If you can create a checklist consisting of all of the types of coverage you absolutely need, those you would like to have but don’t necessarily need, and those you absolutely do not need, you’ll be better able to compare policies. The Minnesota Department of Health provides a comprehensive checklist you can use to compare up to four policies.
Once you know what you’re looking for, you can then begin your comparisons. If you currently have health insurance through your employer, your policy documents will contain most of what you need. Your employer should also be able to furnish you with at least an overview of the options provided by the company’s other plans. Finally, if you also plan to investigate policies offered through your spouse’s employer, trade groups, or other group organizations, contact them for the literature you’ll need to make a comparison.
Using your checklist, go through every item to see what is, and what is not, covered under each plan. If a specific plan doesn’t address something in detail, a visit to their website will usually provide the information you need. As a last resort, you can also call individual insurance companies and asking detailed questions about their plans. When your checklist is complete, you simply add in the cost of each plan to determine which is most valuable to you.
Will the best coverage always have the highest price?
Unfortunately, the more coverage you require, the higher your premiums are going to be. That’s simply the reality of health insurance. As a consumer, you must decide how much you can afford and what types of coverage is most important to you. In a perfect world, you could have unlimited coverage for every possible health condition you might experience throughout your lifetime. But since this isn’t a perfect world, many of us have to settle for a policy, which gives us the best we can get, at a price we can afford.
There are things you can do to reduce your premiums and still get most of the coverage you want. For example, you can accept higher deductible amounts and smaller annual limits. Choosing these two options limits the amount of money the insurance company will spend on both ends, and can significantly reduce your premiums. You can also choose a policy that will work in conjunction with a healthcare savings account. Such accounts also reduce payouts for insurance companies and will reduce your premiums.
What if my employer offers only one option?
The reality of today’s economy dictates that many small businesses only offer one type of healthcare policy. If you work for such a company, there’s not much you can do about it unless you’re willing to be included in your spouse’s health plan or purchase your own insurance. The only options you might have from your employer in such a case may deal with the inclusion of dental and vision care, or deductibles and coverage limits.
Is there anything else I should know?
When you compare health insurance policies, it’s important to note the differences in the types of plans available. The most common plan today is known as an HMO (health maintenance organization) which is managed-care.
The second most popular is the PPO (preferred provider organization); it is also managed-care, but organized in such a way as to reduce costs by utilizing doctors and healthcare facilities willing to participate in a network together.
The third type of plan is a catastrophic plan. Also known as major medical, catastrophic plans were once the norm in America. These types of plans pay for excessive medical bills that might result from an accident, a chronic illness, or an emergency medical condition. They generally don’t provide the cost of routine healthcare.
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