Health

Look After Your Health With These Affordable Options

If you are one of the 45.7 million Americans in the U.S. without health insurance, you may not completely comprehend how important this coverage really is. Most uninsured Americans cite the high cost as the #1 reason for not having coverage. In reality, though, living without this essential protection can actually put you at significantly more financial risk. One accident, illness, or injury could put your financial security in jeopardy.

The uninsured also have an impact on the overall community. People without medical plans typically go without annual exams and do not visit the doctor at the onset of an illness. Instead, they wait until it is an emergency. This means that emergency rooms are filled with patients who could have treated their illnesses early on, and means that true emergencies aren't receiving as much attention as they should. The entire system as it stands depends on people getting coverage, getting treatment and getting well. Uninsured patients can slow down hospitals and make medical costs rise - unfortunately, it is a vicious cycle that hurts the uninsured even more in the end.

Fewer Things are More Important than Your Health

You can receive medical care without health insurance. However, the extraordinary costs of doing so strongly discourages the uninsured from seeking out medical care until it's too late or the ailment has worsened. With almost all plans, hospital stays and sick visits to a doctor will be at least partially protected. Some plans also cover preventive care, mental care, prescription drugs, and more. A good policy will pay for the basics of healthcare, but it can also serve as a preventive measure against future disease or illness. Be sure to compare insurers before buying a policy.

One of the most commonly cited reasons for declaring bankruptcy is medical costs. Uninsured people are caught off guard by a serious injury or illness, and it creates a financial disaster. Even a rather small injury, like a broken arm, can put a major strain on your finances if you don't have insurance. Studies have shown that people with well funded plans live longer, and they also enjoy a higher quality of life than their uninsured counterparts. Experts attribute this mainly to the fact that the insured are less likely to put off visits to healthcare providers when problems arise. Thus, people tend to get the care they need when they need it instead of waiting for the problem to get worse. Here are just a few more reasons becoming insured is so important:

  • With a good medical policy, you don't need medical payments coverage on auto insurance
  • People with insurance live longer, better lives
  • This can make prescription drugs affordable
  • Access critical preventive care with some policies
  • Unpaid medical bills can destroy your credit, and hospitals can even put a lien on your property if you don't pay in full

Common Types to Consider

These offerings are amazingly versatile, allowing policyholders to customize their coverage to accommodate their medical needs as well as their budgets. You can choose policies based on the level of flexibility you desire, the doctors you prefer, the premiums you wish to pay, and many other factors. Here are the most common types of coverage options:

  • Family Plans: family health insurance coverage is a policy that provides medical coverage for all members of a family. For example, your family could be defined as you and your spouse, often called "subscriber and spouse" coverage, or you and your children if you are a single parent. Typically, families obtain medical policies for their dependents through their employers, as this is the cheapest option. If you are divorced, you can maintain your insurance using COBRA.
  • Group Plans: this is one of the few options that is not purchased by individuals. Rather, group policies are purchased by an employer and offered to qualifying employees and their family members. This is usually offered as part of a benefits package for working for a certain company.
  • Student Options: student medical coverage is intended to pay for the medical expenses of full- or part-time college students while they finish their educations. Most student policies are offered through a partnership between a carrier and the student's school. The care provided usually centers on the school's student health center.
  • Short-term Plans: short-term medical options fill gaps between traditional policies. Short-term policies are ideal for people between jobs or those waiting for medical benefits to begin. Normally, short-term policies lasts anywhere from six months to one year. This is the type of coverage you would want if you are considering purchasing visitor health insurance.
  • Individual Offerings: this is purchased out-of-pocket by a policyholder instead of through an employer. These plans offer comprehensive health coverage and long-term protection.
  • Point of Service (POS): essentially, a POS plan is a combination of two options: an HMO and a PPO plan. As with an HMO, you must choose an in-network doctor as your primary care physician (PCP). POS offerings allow members to choose out-of-network providers and facilities, but they will have to pay most of the cost of those services unless their PCP specifically referred them to an out-of-network provider.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): a PPO is more flexible than an HMO in that it offers discounted rates for the use of in-network doctors and facilities, but it will also provide substantial out-of-network care. PPO also does not require a referral from a primary care provider in order to visit a specialist.
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): an HMO requires members to choose physicians and facilities included in the HMO's network. Policyholders can receive in-network care for a very small cost. On the other hand, most HMOs will not pay any benefits for out-of-network care. HMOs also require members to receive referrals from their primary care providers before they can see a specialist.

Depending on your vitality, it may be difficult to find protection at a reasonable price. For instance, if you have been diagnosed with cancer, heart disease or various other medical conditions, you may be charged higher premiums. In addition, insurance does not take care of all medical costs. Infertility treatment and caesarean section are examples of a medical procedures that may not be covered by most insurers.

Health insurance is more complicated than you might think. Depending on your needs, you might require more coverage than someone else. Your health status, comfort with risk and budget will all be factors in deciding how much coverage you need. Some policies only look after "necessary" coverage - which can be defined in a variety of ways. Some might limit your coverage to emergency visits, or simply office visits, and could exclude "extra" services such as laboratory services, x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and visits to specialists. Be sure you understand the limitations and extents of the quotes you receive, and compare those to the coverage you wish to receive.

Medical insurance is one of the most important expenses you can have. Whether you contribute to a policy that your employer provides, or pay for your family's entire coverage out of pocket, ensuring that you and your loved ones are protected is a top priority. These days it seems that more and more people are unable to afford the protection they need. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to find discounts, or competitive rates for you and your family. While you initially might balk at the concept of discount plans, remember that quality care exists with both affordable plans and luxury plans.

Compare Rates to Save

It's not like medical insurance is the same in every state or town in America. No two plans are identical, even from the same insurer. That's why it's so important for you to be an educated and assertive consumer. Use our free service to help you get pricing estimates from trusted and reliable insurers. Review your quotes and look at the extent of the coverage.

After you've received quotes from different insurers, it's time to carefully look over them and compare the coverage. Look at both the premiums and the deductibles, and decide which quote offers you the best options. You might want to look at your existing healthcare bills, and incorporate those realities into each quote you receive - that way, you can compare dollar-for-dollar how much your costs will go up (or go down) with insurance.

It's important to get a medical exam before you purchase your health or life policy so you know what your insurer will charge you for premiums. If you are seen as more of a risk, you will be charged higher premiums. For example, people with high cholesterol, heart disease, depression, chronic headaches and all other risks will not be eligible for the best rates. By getting a medical exam you may be able to change your lifestyle to improve your health and get better rates. If you are a smoker or heavy drinker, you might consider cutting back on your habit.

Remember that the plan with the lowest premium is not necessarily the ideal one for you or your family. Sometimes it can be the absolute opposite. Look at the premium as well as the deductible. Your deductible is directly tied to how much out-of-pocket costs you'll have in the event that you need to go to the doctor. Also look at costs for copays or per-office visits. These are the amounts that can add up. Review costs for prescriptions and services such as x-rays or laboratory analysis.

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