Archive for Monday, October 22, 2001

Tips for locating health insurance

October 22, 2001

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Experts have plenty of tips for finding individual health insurance, including these suggestions:

Seek professional help. Consulting with an experienced health insurance broker does not increase your costs. Find a broker who offers a wide selection of plans, rather than one who sells a particular company's products.

Registered employee benefits consultants and registered health underwriters have completed additional training specific to health insurance.

Don't get cut off from COBRA. If you are offered the option of continuing health benefits through COBRA, accept it if you can afford to pay the premium. If you find alternate coverage at a later time, you can always switch. But once you decline COBRA, there is no going back.

Know what you're buying. Some plans offer only very limited coverage; look for a comprehensive plan that covers hospital and physician services, plus prescription drugs. Don't expect to find benefits as rich as those offered in a group plan.

Make sure the policy is guaranteed renewable and cannot be canceled except for nonpayment of premium.

Be aware of your history. When you purchase individual health insurance, insurers look carefully at your personal medical history. In a nutshell, the company needs to estimate how much you are going to cost them.

"It's not so much how often you visit the doctors. It's what you spend at the pharmacy counter" that affects health care costs, says Penny Ashley-Lawrence of Raleigh, N.C.-based Carolina Benefits Group.

If you are on a co-pay prescription plan, ask the pharmacist what your medicine would cost at retail price. Any health plan you apply for will do the math and charge you accordingly.

Find a job with health benefits. This might seem like cruel advice to someone who recently has lost his or her job, but it's still the easiest and cheapest way for most people to obtain health insurance.

For people with health problems or poor health histories, getting on a group plan may be the only way to obtain coverage.

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