Asking about the lowest cost health insurance plan available is a really tough question because there are so many variables. It’s like asking what kind of car is the best one to drive. Finding low cost health insurance options depends on a number of factors including where you live, the general health of the people in your area, and the type of coverage you’re looking for.
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If the final price tag is the only thing that matters to you in finding health care coverage, the lowest price probably would come by way of a major medical policy with extremely high deductibles. But such plans are impractical for most people. Therefore, you have to do some research to figure out what’s available to you. You can do your research by visiting the websites of individual health insurance providers or by contacting the insurance department of your particular state.
Other than cost, what else needs to be considered?
Would you be willing to buy a brand new sports car for $500 if you knew that the cost of replacing the tires would be $5,000 annually? Probably not. Before you spend the money on a car you would make sure you’re getting good value in return. Health insurance works exactly the same way.
In addition to just the bottom line costs, it’s important for you to know what you’re getting for your money.
The first thing to look at is specifically what types of coverage are provided for under the policy. You’re looking for things like routine doctor visits, regular well child visits, vaccinations, emergency care, hospitalization, and so on. You’ll also be looking at total annual limits and how much you will pay in health insurance deductibles and copayments.
Because health insurance plans are so complex, making these comparisons is often difficult. But if you can find a resource similar to one offered by the Maine Bureau of insurance the job can be significantly easier. The state of Maine provides a side-by-side comparison of typical benefits in an easy-to-read and understand chart. If you can’t find something as comprehensive, you can get individual charts from multiple insurance companies.
Which is cheaper, an HMO or major medical?
As a general rule HMOs (health maintenance organizations) are less expensive over the long haul. In fact, lower customer costs were one of the primary reasons for enacting the 1970s legislation responsible for establishing HMO health insurance companies in the United States. Unfortunately, the very nature and structure of the HMO has been a significant contributor to the overall cost of health care in this country. Some experts suggest that in hindsight, we’d all be paying less for health insurance if the HMO had never become part of federal law.
In terms of how much you pay on a monthly basis, HMOs keep their prices cheaper than major medical policies by spreading the entire risk across a group of individuals. These groups are typically organized at the employer level, and then included in larger community groups within a metropolitan area. Insurance companies set their rates for individual groups based on demographic information from that community.
Are there cheap limited benefit policies?
In the majority of U.S. states, subscribers do have the option to purchase inexpensive limited benefit plans that only cost a couple of hundred dollars per month. While these plans are very attractive from a financial standpoint, don’t forget the car illustration previously talked about.
These plans may only cost a couple of hundred dollars a month but they typically have very low annual limits. For example, a plan might only allow for a total of $1,000 per family member for routine care from her primary care physician. For a family with small children a $1,000 limit can be obliterated in a heartbeat.
What if I need care but can’t afford health insurance?
One of the greatest myths perpetrated on the American public in terms of health insurance options is that uninsured individuals cannot get care. This is simply not true. Federal law prohibits doctors and healthcare institutions from turning away patients suffering from life-threatening conditions. Furthermore, almost every hospital and clinic in the nation provides either financial assistance for monthly installment plans for individuals who do not have health insurance.
If you don’t have health insurance you might check with your county social services or your state insurance department for information on where you can get the care you need. As an example, the Michigan Department of Community Health website provides tons of information in this regard. There are an unending number of similar resources available all over the country.
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