The purpose of health insurance is to cover and reduce the cost of health-related expenses. A good health insurance plan saves you money and protects you from having to pay in full for high medical expenses, now or in the future.
You may no longer be covered by your employer or may be self-employed, which puts the burden of getting health insurance coverage squarely on your shoulders. It may seem like a maze of information, but here are some tips to make it easier to find the best coverage for you.
To pick the health plan that’s right for you, balance the cost of the plan (the premium, usually paid monthly) with the level of coverage and the amount it saves on your medical expenses. Consider a plan’s deductible (how much you pay in expenses before coverage starts), co-payments (the fixed amount or percentage you pay of the full cost of products or services) and out-of-pocket limit (also referred to as out-of-pocket maximum, the most you may pay out-of-pocket for healthcare costs in the year).
Evaluate Your Needs
So what is the “best” health plan? It varies for each individual. The best health-care plan for you depends on your health, medical needs, level of coverage desired and plan cost.
- Examine your current health expenses and others you expect to incur. Where are your health-care dollars going currently: doctors, drugs, procedures, etc.? Based on this assessment, decide which areas need strong coverage, and which can be low- to no-coverage (so you only pay for what you need).
- Research plan coverage levels and costs for your specific needs. For example, someone who requires regular medications for a chronic condition may want a plan with full pharmacy coverage and low co-payments for drugs. A person who is otherwise healthy but planning to have knee surgery should closely check the policies and rates for major medical procedures.
- Then consider unforeseen medical expenses, small and large. It may be worth paying a little extra now for safety from future unexpected (and high) bills, or even peace of mind.
Research Your Options
Different health plans and configurations can protect you and save money in varying amounts. Use online tools such as health insurance comparison websites to see a quick and easy overview of several plans side by side. You can filter plans by cost and even compare copay amounts and charges for common medical expenses.
Be a well-informed consumer. The consequences of ill-fitting health insurance can be extreme. Based on a cross-section of plans, the average family out-of-pocket limit is $4,033. However, on some plans, you can be on the hook for $30,000 before coverage takes care of the remainder. Always make sure you know what’s covered, what’s not and how much you may need to pay in any situation.
There are many resources online to help you find the best health plans, so research thoroughly and make an informed decision about your health and future. Your family and your wallet will thank you.