Researching individual health insurance

Like me, if you find the idea of getting individual insurance a daunting one, then this article is for you. You shouldn’t have to feel lost in a sea of information, especially not when it’s something that can affect your family so much.

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  • Health insurance can affect families in many ways. It means another bill to pay, but it also means peace of mind when something big happens, like a broken arm or serious illness. I am so grateful for group health insurance. They typically mean more coverage for less money, and that’s nothing to complain about.

  • However, I’m turning 26. That means I will no longer be eligible to be on my parents’ insurance. My husband is also a graduate student, and adding me to his insurance is more expensive than we thought. So I started researching individual insurance.

  • You shouldn’t have to feel lost in a sea of options and information, especially not when it’s something that can affect your family so much.

  • Create your chart

  • My first step was to open up my favorite chart-making software, but you can make your chart on paper if you like. I labeled columns with headings of “company,” “website,” and all the nitty-gritty insurance information. These entailed deductibles, copays for general practitioners and specialists, preventative care and injury/accident coverage as well as prescription and dental. Since I wear glasses, I also added a column for vision coverage, but that may not be a huge concern for you.

  • Set your priorities

  • Before you start, figure out which factors are most important to you. Maybe you can handle a $3,000 deductible, but a cent more than that would be impossible for your family. Maybe you prize your pearly whites so you are interested in health insurance that has a really fantastic dental plan. Maybe you know you go to the doctor more than six times in the average year. Whatever the case, having this information on hand will help you narrow down the options that each insurance company will offer.

  • As for me, the only time I go to the doctor is to get an antibiotic, so the occasional copay and prescription cost wasn’t going to break the bank, but a hefty premium every month might. I also asked about maternity coverage, since my husband and I intend to start our family sooner rather than later. As of this writing, most insurance companies (in fact, all of them in my area) do not have maternity coverage. However, given the changes to the health care laws in the U.S., maternity coverage should be available soon. Just remember that the added coverage also means added cost for your family.

  • Find the information

  • At this point, it’s time to find out which companies are in your area. You can start by thinking of all the insurance companies that you’ve heard of and going to their websites. I ended up doing a Web search for “individual health insurance” followed by my city and state, and I suspect that is a little more efficient. Most insurance companies have brochures for their policies available online, but I preferred talking to a real person. I called the number on the website and asked for a quote, then asked a series of questions so I could fill in each box on my chart. You’ll repeat this process with each insurance company you find in your area.

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  • As you fill in the boxes, it’s OK to establish a kind of shorthand so that you only include the information that is most meaningful to you. This helps you to remember it because you are rephrasing it, not to mention helping it fit more nicely into your boxes.

  • Choose your insurance policy

  • Now that you have all of this information on hand, and have probably learned more about individual insurance than you ever wanted to know, it’s time to choose a company. This is the easy part considering you already have your priorities set, and you already have a description of each policy ready for a side-by-side comparison.

  • Once you have decided which one will work best for you and your family, contact that insurance company. You’ll need to apply for the insurance before you have the option to purchase it. This involves answering a health-related questionnaire so the insurance company can get a sense of your level of liability. It’s important to be as open as possible. I liked talking to someone on the phone for this part because I could ask questions like “does this situation apply to that?” as needed. Insurance agents really can't advise you on how to respond to the questions, but they can help you give informed relevant answers.

  • Ideally, you’d be healthy all the time; bustling around taking care of your family and enjoying all of those special moments. But for those times when you do get sick, there’s insurance to make the financial burden a little more doable. And when adding yourself to your spouse’s insurance through his or her employer is not an option, there’s this article to guide you through your research. Best of luck, and best of health, to you.

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Sara Hagmann is a stay-at-home wife and writer who loves traveling, cooking, and kissing her husband. A lot.

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