Finding the right health insurance can be a costly, arduous, and unpleasant experience that can make it tempting to just go without insurance. However, the reality of living in America is that health insurance is a necessity in order to live a safe, healthy life.
It’s tough to find a balance between health care that’s affordable but is also substantial enough to make it worth having. Here are a few key pieces of advice to keep in mind when looking for health insurance:
The Cost Of Going Uninsured Is Risk
Health insurance exists at the very minimum as a safety net to cover you should the worst happen. If worst came to worst and you were injured in a car accident or received a sudden cancer diagnosis, even the most bare bones insurance plan would cover many of the costs. Without insurance, you’re on the hook for every penny spent on your care. A simple trip to the ER would cost you as much as $1,450 and if you require a hospital stay you could end up owing in the tens of thousands per day.
The Affordable Care Act initially levied a penalty tax for anyone without health insurance, but as of 2019 that tax has been removed. Despite the ability to opt out of health insurance, your best bet is to find some form of coverage to protect yourself in case of disaster. It’s much better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Finding Cheap Health Insurance
The cheaper the plan, the less coverage is offered. However, having a bare bones health insurance plan is still better than nothing. If you’re looking to save on how much you spend, you can find a plan that has a good balance of affordability and coverage by shopping around. State exchanges set up through the Affordable Care Act are an option that helps you compare health insurance plans that you may be eligible for based on your age and income.
You can also buy direct through insurance companies, as insurers may have a wider range of policies available on their website than on the state exchanges. If you feel like you need some guidance, you can also choose an insurance agent to help you make your healthcare decision. Captive agents will offer products through one company while independent agents will help you choose from several insurers.
Special Healthcare Programs
There are several federally subsidized healthcare programs that provide low cost health insurance to those who qualify, usually via age or income. Medicaid is offered to those with a low enough income to qualify, or for people with certain disabilities. Medicare is offered to those over the age of 65 while CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) is offered to children who don’t qualify for Medicaid but can’t otherwise afford insurance. To find out whether or not you’re eligible, you can apply for a health plan through your state health insurance exchange.
Health Insurance Through Your Parents Or Work
The ACA allows anyone under the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan, which can often be much cheaper than signing up for a new plan out of pocket. If you’re able to stay on your parents‘ plan and pay them the difference, this can be your best option.
If your workplace offers health insurance, this is almost always going to be the cheapest option. Most employers will pay a certain percentage of your monthly premium, offering incentives to full-time employees. If you’re looking for cheap health insurance, look into what plans your company offers. While they may not be the plans with the highest coverage on the marketplace, they are most likely going to cost you substantially less than paying for even the cheapest plan out of pocket.
Downsides of Catastrophic Plans
Health insurance plans known as “Catastrophic Plans” are usually high-deductible plans with low monthly premiums. If you don’t plan on using your health insurance except in case of emergency, these plans will be your cheapest option. You’re eligible if you’re either under 30 or over 30 with a hardship exemption (homelessness, eviction, bankruptcy).
Under a catastrophic plan you’ll receive three primary care doctor’s visits per year, prescription coverage, and other essential benefits. Any medical care outside of that will come out of pocket up to a deductible of $7,900. The low premiums and high deductibles make catastrophic plans a good fit mostly for the young and healthy. Anyone who anticipates needing more extensive care should choose a plan with a lower deductible and higher coverage.
PPO Vs. HMO
There are two major types of healthcare plans, a PPO and an HMO. A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) is usually the more expensive option, but has more flexibility in which doctor or hospital you want to see, while a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan is going to be less expensive but also limits the choice of doctors and hospitals you’re allowed to see.
While HMO’s are the cheaper choice, the restriction in coverage can be difficult. If you want to see a specialist under an HMO, you’ll require a referral from your primary care physician. This can be time-consuming and require multiple visits and co-pays.
Consider All The Costs
Don’t make the mistake of only considering the monthly premiums when deciding which health care plan to buy. Factor in out of pocket costs such as co-pays and deductibles to see what you may end up owing in a year in case you end up needing to use your insurance more frequently. Consider also whether or not you want to include dental or vision insurance, and whether or not your plan offers that.
Only you can decide what kind of health care coverage is right for you. If you’re young and healthy, it may make sense to save your money and go for a catastrophic plan with a low premium, as long as you make sure you’re covered.