Before You Look for Health Insurance
By Richard Keir
Shopping around for medical insurance can be a confusing business. You need to keep your wits about you and keep track of the benefits and costs of each policy and each type of policy. Too often we tend to look at the price first and the rest of the policy becomes a blur of fine print. And we're off to check the next policy.
Slow down. There some important things you should do before you start chasing around to get a policy. Doing these few things will make the whole process simpler and clearer - and you're much more likely to make a good decision.
You need to carefully consider your situation. Think about these questions and note your answers:
What's the general state of your health?
How old are you?
Do you have any serious medical problems currently or in your medical history?
Do you have any history of recurring or on-going medical needs?
Do you use tobacco? How much?
Do you drink? How much?
Are you over- or under-weight for your height, body-type and age?
Is your job hazardous?
Do you participate in any activities or sports that could affect your health?
Now this may be unpleasant but if there's any chance an insurance company could discover a history of drug or alcohol abuse or sexual behavior that might put you in a high risk group, you may want to be direct and upfront about it - especially if it's in the past. Having a claim denied later because you had failed to disclose medical information to the insurance company would be far more upsetting - and very expensive. The same goes for any significant medical condition. Insurance companies are in it to make a profit - at least most of them are. Paying large claims isn't their favorite activity, so they often do investigate.
If you're seeking a family policy you'll need to make the same analysis for everyone and consider carefully what kind of coverage you want.
Do you need dental, orthodontic, pregnancy, mental health, and/or drug coverage? Do you need long-term care coverage, either inpatient or in a nursing facility? Assisted living coverage? What about traveler's or international coverage?
If there's a possibility that you may require - or want - in-home care as opposed to a residential nursing or assisted living facility, be sure that coverage is included and be sure you understand exactly what you can expect to receive.
Think about deductibles and what you could afford pay to reduce your insurance costs. But be very careful here, because medical expenses tend to pile up quickly and reach nearly insane levels for complex treatments or inpatient stays. Many drugs in common use are ridiculously over-priced and depending on the specifics of your insurance you may not be able to use the least expensive sources.
If you will end up with multiple sources of coverage, be clear about how they fit together and what the rules are about overlapping or combined benefits.
Once you are clear on your current situation, your (and other family member's) medical history, and your projected needs, you can begin looking in a organized way with a better sense of where you're going and what will actually meet your needs. This may seem like a tedious process, but it will serve you well in finding appropriate and affordable health insurance and making sure your health care needs can be met by the medical insurance you choose.
Take some time to work through these questions. Write down your answers. Make a chart with your desired coverages and any special conditions the policy must meet. As you look at health insurance policies, note the rules, exclusions, information about pre-existing conditions, any limitations, the dollar amounts covered and especially any deductibles.
Don't try to do too much at once. If you hurry, it'll become confusing and tiring. You may hate it (I know I do), but you really do need to read all that fine print and understand it. That's not a task to rush through. You might as well face up to it, because it's a lot better to do it BEFORE you need medical services than after you get a bill for the uncovered portion that sends you into shock.
So is it an impossible job to find health insurance that works for you? Not at all. There's a world of resources on the internet to help you find the policy you need. Just be sure to do your homework first.
Copyright 2005 Richard Keir
About The Author
Richard Keir is a writer, educator and consultant providing services to medical, scientific and business professionals.