With health costs the single biggest expense many families face, careful health insurance comparison can save those who are paying for health insurance huge amounts of money over time. However, this comparison needs to be done carefully to avoid the mistakes that can come from choosing the wrong provider.
Health insurance comparison sites
While it is nice to have a local insurance provider with an office that one can walk into and get a quote; this is probably not the way to get the lowest price. For the best health insurance comparison, online comparison sites are generally the way to go. They will offer quotes online, usually in a short period of time. There are hundreds of sites that provide these quotes. Be sure to choose a site that is offering quotes from many companies and not just a select few.
Medical Health History offers a listing and reviews of some of the top comparison websites. HealthPocket is another free option that can list all available plans in an area and sort them by cost. Regardless of what site is used in health insurance comparison, the same principles and process apply.
Once a website is selected, the person looking for insurance fills out an online form for quotes. To make the whole process easier, faster and more accurate, it is a good idea to have things like medical histories, birthdays, legal names of dependents, social security numbers and the like all on hand.
- The form is sent in and the quotes arrive, sometimes in minutes.
- The quotes should be those from the companies offering the best deals.
- Although the sites often offer online advice, the services will be free of charge.
Factors that will affect rates
As factors to include one’s driving record will affect car insurance rates, the following are the major deciders in what one will pay for health insurance:
- Age: Rates increase with age.
- Health: Diseases, occupation, habits to include whether or not one smokes or drinks, overall health, etc. all can affect rates.
- Location: Since medical costs vary according to location, the rates will too.
While the location, habits and health factors can sometimes be changed, it is impossible for most people to change factors like age or do things to greatly affect the overall cost of health care. This makes careful health insurance comparison of utmost importance to keep premiums as low as possible.
What to look for in health insurance comparison
Not all insurance is the same and going for the cheapest rates may not be a wise move. The following factors should be considered when buying individual health insurance:
- The reputation of the company and its financial stability: It is bad enough to have to face injury or illness. Nobody wants to have to deal with a company that cannot or will not pay claims on top of everything else. Make sure the company is on sound footing and has a solid history of paying claims without dispute.
- Renewal clauses: The insurance policy should be renewed automatically and without premium increases for using medical coverage.
- Wait times: Some insurance companies require patients to wait before they can be seen for certain conditions.
- Deductibles: Virtually every health insurance policy now has a deductible. While it is generally more cost effective to go for a higher deductible, make sure it fits the budget.
- Copayment: On addition to the deductible, many plans will require the insured to pay a percentage of treatments.
- Exclusions: Note that all companies have some limits on the medical procedures they will cover.
- Prescription drug coverage: Those who take medications can compare the prices with each company to get a better idea of their coverage.
- Coverage limits and out of pocket maximums: While coverage limits (annual and lifetime) will limit how much an insurance company pays, out of pocket maximums limit how much the insured will have to pay during a set period of time.
- Total out of pocket expenses: Be sure to look at the total out-of-pocket expenses to include deductibles, co-payments and prescription costs.
- The type of policy: The major types will be covered below. Make sure it is one that will provide the right type of coverage.
Types of plans
The ability to choose one’s doctors freely is very important to many people and needs to be considered. However, more choice will bring higher costs.
- Fee-for Service allows patients to choose whatever doctor or hospital they like.
- HMO’s are the best known managed care services. Patients must stay within the network of providers and need authorization before getting many treatments. Costs are fixed, and patients pay for part of their treatments.
- Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) and POS Point-of-Service (POS) are types of HMOs that will cost more. However, they offer more flexibility in getting partial coverage outside the organization. POS requires that a primary doctor be chosen first.