• Shopping for Health Insurance


    If you are unhappy with the insurance you have and are looking for a change, or if you do not have health insurance, you have options to consider. If you take some time now to understand and compare these options it may save you money and improve your access to quality care.

    Don’t be surprised if you find this process overwhelming at times. It’s difficult to know where to begin. The steps below are provided to help you gather the information you need to make an informed choice that is right for you and your family.

    Step 1. Evaluate your healthcare needs.

    • Take a close look at your budget and spending habits, including how much you have spent on healthcare in years past. For example, if you don’t have much savings, it would be difficult to cover an unexpected, big expense, which could happen if you have a high deductible. If you want a lower deductible so you don’t have to pay so much before it is met, you will probably need to budget for a higher monthly premium.
    • Consider how often you see your doctor. For example, if you go fairly often in addition to your regular check-up, you may be willing to pay a higher monthly premium so the insurer will share more of the cost of copayments and other expenses.
    • Know your priorities and preferences and try to anticipate your healthcare needs as much as possible for the coming year. For example:
      • You want to keep the primary care physician you have now
      • You can only afford $200 a month for a premium
      • You may need surgery but can only afford about $5,000 at most in out-of-pocket expenses, including your deductible and anything else insurance might not cover.

    If you already have health insurance, continue to Step 2. If you don’t have coverage, go to Step 3.

    Step 2. Evaluate your current plan.

    Does your current meet the expectations that you listed in Step 1? If you are not sure, check your plan documentation (which may be online) or call you plan administrator. Your policy information should include contact information or you may find a phone number or website listed on your insurance card.

    You can also request plan your plan’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) (click here to see an example) and the Uniform Glossary. Both are written in plain language to help you understand your plan benefits. You can also click here for definitions of commonly used terms.

    Keep in mind that if your current insurance complies with ACA requirements, and it is affordable, you may have to wait until open enrollment to buy insurance from the health insurance marketplace or directly from an insurance company. Click here for a flow chart that can help you determine your options based on your income.

    Step 3. Get health insurance.

    • Shop for a new plan. Click here for a shopping list of some of the most important things to look for in new plans.
    • If you or a family member recently lost your health insurance benefits because of a layoff, death, or other qualifying event, consider continuing your coverage under COBRA.
    • Purchase insurance directly from a private insurer (but only after carefully reviewing the plan to confirm that it meets all of your requirements). You can do this on your own or with the help of an insurance agent or broker.
    • Visit www.Healthcare.gov to determine if you are eligible for benefits from a government program, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIPs and to access the federal or state (if your state has one) health insurance marketplace to compare plans and apply for any subsidies or tax credits.
    • Remember, if you don’t not have a plan that has what the ACA calls the minimum essential benefits by March 31, 2014, you may have to pay a penalty. Click here for more information on the penalty.

    For the most current information on deadline and penalties, it is important keep up to date on healthcare reform developments at both the federal and state levels.

    Click here for more information on monitoring changes that may affect you.

    Learn More About Health Insurance

    You can learn much more about health insurance coverage in the United States, including how you can keep or find the best and most affordable health insurance for you and your family, in the SecondsCount Guide to Health Insurance center, found here.