Your Guide to Buying Affordable Health Insurance

Individual health insurance plans help in covering medical expenses in the event of serious and unexpected medical emergencies. They also help you stay on top of important preventative health-care services. They can help you to save considerable money on your visits to the doctor, on preventive care, prescriptions drugs, and other vital health-care services.

It’s important that you get a health plan that not only meets your health care needs but one that is also affordable. Whether you are unemployed, self-employed, or covered by an employer’s health-care insurance plan, buying affordable health insurance is both time-consuming and it can also be a frustrating process. Throw in the new changes being introduced by the Trump Administration in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) guidelines, and it becomes even more challenging.

Sure, getting affordable health insurance is still possible with the following strategies and tips.

The Affordable Care Act

The 2019 Affordable Care Act annual open enrollment period has closed in all states. However, for millions of Americans seeking coverage, there are several options left. If one has a qualifying event, they can still purchase coverage for 2019 and still benefit from cost-sharing and premium subsidies.

For those who can’t afford to buy ACA-compliant health plans, short-term coverage may offer a temporary safety net. In February 2018, President Trump’s administration loosened the regulations governing short-term health insurance by removing the cap on 90 days. Now short-term health plans can be extended to one year. 

Explore Special Programs

Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide low-cost, affordable federally subsidized health care if you qualify.

The most well-known among them, Medicare is specifically designed for you if you are over age 65. Medicaid caters to those classified as earning very low incomes. Children’s Health Insurance Program covers children (and their families in some cases) if they are not qualified for Medicaid but who would otherwise not afford buying insurance.

The easiest way of determining your eligibility is by applying through your respective state’s health insurance exchange. If eligible, enrolling for Medicaid and CHIP is open throughout the year.

High Deductible Health Plans

Known in short as HDHPs, these are structured in a way that provides the buyer with tax savings. HDHPs typically come with higher deductible compared to other plans. Preventive health care doesn’t count toward your deductible. The plans may actually be associated with Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) or Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) and tied to specific Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs).

An FSA offers more flexibility in terms of spending your healthcare money, allowing you to save and set aside pre-tax funds to be used towards future medical expenses. Insurers have an extensive range of HDHPs directly available through their websites. The future of High Deductible Health Plans, however, remains unclear as they are currently under the scrutiny of the IRS.

Catastrophic Plans

Under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, you qualify for low-premium catastrophic plans if you are under 30 or over 30 but have qualified for a hardship exemption. In this case, hardship exemptions include several dire financial circumstances like being homeless, recently evicted, and bankruptcy.

A catastrophic health insurance plan entitles the holder to 3 visits to their primary care doctor annually, prescription medication coverage, and several other essential health care benefits. However, any medical care that falls outside those parameters will have to be met out-of-pocket until you reach a $7,900 deductible in 2019.

Although you will be paying low premiums when on a high deductible or catastrophic plan, insurance experts advise that you should only consider this option if you are young and in great health. And also ensure that you are in a position of meeting the high deductible associated with this type of health plan if the need arises. This otherwise affordable plan could become quite costly in case you need some health care service that is not covered.

Look Outside the State Exchanges

You might simply assume that you are better off when on your state’s exchange or that perhaps you don’t qualify for any of the available tax credit subsidies or special programs. The truth is that if you are not eligible for a subsidy, you could fare much better might outside of the exchange. If you are 100% certain that you don’t qualify for such special programs and subsidies, why not compare the available options both on-and off-exchange.

Asking your friends and neighbors makes lots of sense. While you may find useful official assistance, real people may have more insights than a navigator or broker who in all likelihood is out to make some money or is out to sell you something.

You might also be able to buy affordable health insurance through a professional or trade association you are a member of. Many professional, religious and community organizations offer members health care insurance coverage at affordable group rates. It doesn’t hurt to ask your organization if they offer such a facility.

Consider all Variables

Premiums and deductibles should not be the only factors you need to consider when choosing an affordable health insurance plan. Carefully take into account the copays you have to pay for each plan or the amount will be paying when visiting the doctor.

Before buying, research on the type or category of insurance companies your own primary care doctor accepts so that you don’t lose access to your personal physician.

Conclusion

Many people have been left wondering if reliable yet affordable health insurance plans still exist in the US. If buying health insurance without assistance, it’s important to not only shop around but to also compare different health policies and plans. Consider starting your research with reputable Websites that define and explain the insurance basics. Such sites will help you in understanding the language and concepts of health insurance, which can be quite confusing. 

Then you can look around different websites being run by health insurance providers and brokerages. When choosing a plan, carefully read the fine print before committing yourself. Ask lots of questions especially those related to any hidden cost and future expenses. Bottom-line is that you can still get a reliable and affordable health insurance plan but it requires diligence and careful research.