Shop Cheap, Individual Health Insurance: Get Quick Quotes with Tips for Smart Buying!
In need of cheap health insurance? Then you'll be happy to know that affordable health insurance can be found with just a bit of research and an understanding of what kind of coverage may be appropriate for you or your family. Our service can help you by submitting minimal information to our list of reliable health insurance companies. Complete our user friendly form for a fast turn-around on premium quotes from the most reputable companies.
Our site is also a useful tool to help you acquire information about individual health insurance. The average person who buys private health insurance never actually reads the policy once it is purchased. Instead they breathe a sigh of relief that, now they have insurance, and put the policy in a drawer, only to pull it out after some claim has been denied. Everyone wants low cost health insurance, but if you purchase the cheapest plan, you are also going to have the most limited coverage. It's important to know what you are getting so you aren't surprised when you try to use your coverage. As a tip, the cheapest plans you can find are NOT major medical coverage. And there are certain situations such as nursing home care and disability that no major medical plan will pay for.
Health Insurance 101
Understanding some health care definitions will prevent you from making mistakes in choosing your coverage.
Individual Health Insurance is coverage you purchase for yourself and your family rather than the "group" coverage that you could purchase with the help of an employer.
Major Medical: Health insurance that pays for nearly all of your personal health care needs, often including office visits, hospitalization, lab work and prescription drugs. Usually excludes pregnancy, dental, vision, and psychiatric care unless included with riders.
Fee for Service: Traditional major medical that pays any doctor who agrees to participate as well as doctors outside the network (at a higher cost for you).Generally the most expensive.
PPO or Preferred Provider Organization: Most health care plans today are PPO, so called because they have negotiated with a large list of providers who will accept a lower fee for providing care. They may also receive some sort of indemnity from the insurance company in return for their participation.
HMO or Health Maintenance Organization: Sometimes the least preferred because it is the most restrictive of the major medical choices, but these plans have been making a comeback due to the current high cost of health insurance. The patient must have a primary care doctor—called a gatekeeper—and cannot go to any other doctor without a referral. The doctors get paid for participating and receive bonuses for providing "efficiency," which is basically a way of saying that they didn't give out many referrals.
Long Term Care Insurance: A type of health insurance that pays a nursing home, assisted living facility, or licensed home care giver if a person becomes unable to care for himself. The majority of people who are in a nursing home have the bill paid by Medicaid, but the restrictions for getting Medicaid are rigid, and homecare and assisted living are not covered.
Disability Insurance: Not health insurance but rather a way of providing an income if you become unable to work. This is also referred to as long term disability insurance.
Health Insurance Terms: A little Knowledge may Save a Lot
The best way to purchase health insurance is to work with an agent who either has a good understanding of the products or who has the ability to refer questions or confusing issues directly to the company for clarification. A good agent will not only do his/her best to help you find something you can afford, but will also go over it with you once you have it so you will know what the policy does and doesn't cover. However, understanding some terminology will help you in your search.
- Deductible: the amount you pay before the insurance pays anything. The government allows you to take a high deductible and combine it with an HSA. This will enable you to lower your premium, often by as much as $100 per month.
- HSA: a government approved IRA used to pay the costs of health care. You can put money into it pre-tax and take money out tax free to pay your out of pocket costs. Unlike the group cafeteria plans, you do not need to use up all the money every year. IRS sets an annual limit on the amount you can put into one, and you must have income from work (not social security income) in order to add money to the account. However, if you are healthy, you can let it build up during your working years and use it to pay your out of pocket expenses during retirement.
- Copay/Coinsurance: the amount you pay for each service after your deductible has been met. If you take a higher co-insurance for yourself, your premium will also be lower.
- Exclusions: Conditions not covered by your policy
- Out of Pocket Max: the total out of pocket you must pay per year before you have 100% coverage. Usually, the deductible is NOT part of this total. Sometimes, however, if you have a high deductible, your deductible and out of pocket max can be the same. Thus once you have paid $5000 (for example), you could have 100% coverage for the remainder of that policy year.
- Policy year: one year from the date your policy went into effect. This does not necessarily coincide with the first of January.
- Pre-existing conditions: Nearly all companies restrict coverage if you had care for some condition prior to purchasing the policy. Some pre-existing conditions will get you declined while others involve a waiting period that can be up to one or even two years before that condition will be covered.
- Ambulatory Coverage: tests and diagnostic procedures, such as blood work.
- High Risk Insurance Pool: Available in some states, this is insurance owned by the state. Individuals who are unable to get insurance anywhere else are guaranteed coverage. It is expensive.
- Catastrophic Plans: Health insurance that pays either you or a provider in the event of certain catastrophic illnesses such as cancer, stroke, heart attack and kidney failure. Usually very inexpensive, and very beneficial if a catastrophic event takes place.
- Indemnity Plans: Plans that pay according to a fee schedule. These plans are not considered insurance, but may be less expensive than insurance. In most cases, you will not be declined for pre-existing conditions, but you may have a waiting period for coverage. You can keep these plans even if you have major medical. While not recommended as an alternative to insurance, many people have purchased them as an alternative to having nothing.
- Discount plans: Generally, discount plans are good plans to avoid. The plans claim to negotiate a lower rate with doctors and hospitals, and you pay that rate. The plan actually pays nothing to any provider. You simply pay the company in return for the negotiated discount.
- Medicare: a government plan available to people over 65 or to those who are disabled or have certain conditions such as kidney failure. Covers part of hospital and medical costs.
- Medicare Supplement: Private health insurance that works with Medicare to cover the out of pocket costs not paid for by Medicare.
- Medicaid: Insurance managed in partnership between the states and the federal government. Designed for those with very low income.
- Medicare Advantage: an alternative to Medicare. Available to people who already have their Medicare card. Plans include prescription drugs and you pay copays similar to Medicare. You cannot use your Medicare card and are not eligible to purchase anything to pay your out of pocket costs. You could, however, draw money out of health savings account (HSA) if you have one.