In some ways, buying an individual health insurance plan can seem relatively easy. You can search for and compare a range of plans from different carriers at your convenience, and you can get online health insurance quotes in seconds. Then, depending on the coverage you choose, the application and enrollment process may take only a few minutes.
That said, the process can also feel complex and overwhelming. Understanding health insurance can be difficult for many of us, and selecting the right plan is a relatively significant financial decision.
Here are six tips for making an online health insurance purchase you can feel good about, whether you are looking for an individual major medical plan or supplemental coverage such as critical illness, short-term medical, medical gap, or hospital and doctor coverage.
1. Assess your needs
Purchasing health insurance is a financial commitment that can mean paying for more than you need or paying more for what you need if you do not select appropriate coverage.
- Do you know what you are looking for? Do you already have a major medical plan but want additional health benefits products that may help lower your out-of-pocket healthcare spending? Or, are you completely uninsured?
- Is yours a long-term or short-term situation? For instance, if you are newly self-employed, you may want to look into an individual major medical plan. However, you might consider a short-term medical plan if you recently lost your job or are in some other temporary situation without insurance and need coverage to get you through the next 30 to 90 days.
Get a short-term quote
- Are you eligible for an Obamacare special enrollment period? You may be eligible to purchase major medical insurance outside of open enrollment if you experience certain qualifying life events such as getting married, moving, or adding a child to your family. If you qualify for special enrollment, you can shop for an Obamacare plan on or away from a state-based or federally facilitated exchange—keep in mind that subsidies are only available for exchange-based plans.
- How do you use health insurance? Do you typically see the doctor for preventive care visits and rely on insurance for the unexpected? Or do you visit the doctor several times a year? Consider the medical needs and expenses for every person in your family throughout recent years. List any ongoing medical conditions, surgeries, hospital stays, medications, etc.
- Do you need extra protection? Would an ancillary plan that pays lump-sum benefits for hospital stays, surgery, and major illnesses, such as limited medical or critical illness coverage help you save money, or do you have enough in savings to handle unexpected expenses?
Shop supplemental health insurance plans
2. Know your budget
What you consider to be an affordable, low-cost health insurance plan may differ from someone else’s definition. Regardless, what looks like cheap coverage based on premium alone could end up costing you more money out of pocket.
That’s why you need to look at the entire picture. What can you afford to spend on healthcare? Consider premium, copay, coinsurance, prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, services not covered by insurance and any other out-of-pocket medical expenses. Also factor in dental and vision coverage, as well as any ancillary coverage such as critical illness.
3. Collect quotes and compare plans
As we mention above, you can purchase Obamacare plans on and away from the ACA exchanges—a health insurance producer can help you shop for coverage on either. Supplemental coverage and short term medical plans can be purchased:
Get in-person help. Search Agent Finder!
An online health insurance quote does not commit you to anything—here at HealtheDeals.com we don’t even require contact information unless you apply for coverage—so take your time with the decision.
Get a few quotes. Once you narrow them down to a handful that fit your budget, compare the details closely. Look at premium, coinsurance, prescription drug coverage, deductible, copays, and other out-of-pocket costs. Run the numbers as they apply to your expected use of benefits, and make sure the plan makes sense for your budget as well as your health care needs.
4. Look at plan network providers
Take a closer look the top plans you are considering. Do they require you to see an in-network provider, or can you choose any provider? If you are required to seek in-network care, examine the plan’s provider list to ensure you have access to the doctors, specialists, clinics and hospitals you prefer or that are most convenient for you. If in-network care is not required, some plans may still contract with national provider networks and offer discounts for those who opt to utilize those network providers.
5. Gather information and health history
When you go to apply for a health insurance policy, at a minimum, you will need to have the birth dates, addresses, and coverage start dates of all applicants.
Some supplemental coverage is guaranteed issue, which means no underwriting and instant approval. Other plans may require you to answer a few brief health questions or more detailed information such as:
- Surgeries and hospitalizations, including dates they took place
- Medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, allergies, diabetes, etc.
- Prescription drugs taken in recent years, including start/end dates and dosage
- Doctor visits in recent years, including dates and reasons seen
- Irregular test results
- Family medical history, including cause of death for deceased family members
Have this information ready so you can sit down and complete the application without disruption—and, in turn, receive a faster response.