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Negotiating the Health Insurance Maze

There's no question that choosing an individual health insurance plan can be confusing. Here are some key pieces of information to help you understand how to choose the best plan for you and your family.

Shopping for Health Insurance Online (and Comparing Quotes)

Using online sites to compare health insurance quotes is easier and more efficient than ever before. Expect to offer up your zip code, gender, age and a few other pieces of mildly personal information. (So choose a reputable site that uses the Secure Sockets Layer protocol., for instance, is Norton Secured and has a BBB seal of approval.)

After providing your information, you can expect a wide range of choices which can be sorted by price and type. Choose three or four plans and compare cost and provider availability. After you make your decision, it's easy to apply online for your plan. Expect to share more medical information at some point; this is the only way to get an accurate final quote.

Comparing Quotes: How Much Insurance Coverage Do You Really Need?

When you compare quotes from different carriers and plans, look at the following costs:

  • the annual deductible
  • the copayment/coinsurance
  • the monthly premium (make sure it stays the same rate)

If you are the type of person who rarely visits the doctor, you may not need the most expensive monthly premium plan with the $20 copayment. You may be better off with a plan that has a lower monthly premium, but a higher cost per doctor visit.

To make sure an insurance company is licensed and legit, check with the National Association of Insurance Commissioner's web site. You can check an insurance company's claims-paying rating by checking with agencies such as Standard & Poor's or Moody's.

Ask Yourself These Questions:

1. Approximately how many times a year will I visit the physician? (And how many of those visits are already covered anyway, such as well baby and well woman visits.)
2. How much money did I spend on visits and prescriptions last year?
3. Will the prescription drug formulary for the plan cover my medication? (And at what level?)
4. Do I need better than average coverage for a specific benefit?
5. Do I really need the dental and vision coverage?
6. Is this a short-term or long-term insurance plan? The coverage may be different for major medical issues.
7. Is my favorite doctor or hospital included in the provider directory?

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