How to Shop for Health Insurance

Open enrollment for health insurance effective in the year 2017 begins on November 1st. It’s time to get prepared if you’re in the market for a new plan! Shopping for health insurance can be a daunting task, especially if you aren’t aware of the ins and outs of what you need for you and your family. A health insurance plan is necessary, however, with the prices of medical care being so high. Health insurance policies come in various forms, and they have different benefits. The following is some information on how you can search for an insurance policy more effectively and hopefully, more economically.

Insurance vs. Discount Plan

The first thing that you will need to be mindful of is the difference between health insurance and a discount plan. A discount plan is something that you pay for once a year, and it gives you access to discounts only and no extra benefits. For example, it could save you 10% off of your dental cleanings or eye exams. An insurance policy is something completely different, which involves having part of your health care bill paid for by an insurance company. A regular insurance policy will benefit you more in the case that something unfortunate happens to you or your family’s health situation.

Types of Insurance

The two main types of insurance policies are HMO (health maintenance organization) plans and PPO (preferred provider organization) plans, although other insurance types do exist (such as a POS, or point of service). HMO plans are strict but cost effective. With an HMO plan, you must choose a main internist doctor and go to that doctor first for everything . You’ll have to obtain a referral for anything outside of that doctor’s expertise. A PPO is a little different. A PPO allows you the flexibility to choose any provider that you want to see without having to get a referral, but a PPO is a bit more costly than an HMO is.

Parts of Insurance Policies

Insurance policies, whether it’s health, automobile, dental, or life, all contain different elements that you should be aware of when it comes to your unique coverage. You will want to pay close attention to the premium, deductible, copay, insurance percentage, out-of-pocket expenses, and the waiting period just to name a few.

The premium is the monthly payment that you will have to contribute just to have coverage, or your monthly bill. A low premium is what you want if you think you might have trouble affording anything more expensive. The deductible is the amount of money that you will owe out of pocket if you ever need to use your insurance (there is usually a maximum you will need to spend before the insurance steps in). If you can afford a higher premium each month, your deductible might be lower for when an emergency pops up. A copay is the portion that you are responsible for at doctor’s visits or procedures (this is especially true when visiting specialists).  For example, if you were to visit a gastrointestinal specialist, your insurance plan might have a copay of $50 and they cover the rest of the visit. Insurance percentage is the amount of money that the insurance company will pay in certain circumstances. A waiting period is a period of time that you may have to wait before you gain access to a specific service.  Each plan will have different amounts for these items and it’s very important to choose wisely!

Comparison Tools

A comparison tool can provide you with an easy-to-understand horizontal or vertical view of several policies so that you can choose the one that meets your special criteria. Take your time and review all of your options before you make a decision. Choose whatever fits your current situation. Sometimes, it’s best to work with an insurance agent who can help guide you to fit your specific needs and circumstances.

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