Health care is an issue at the forefront of public policy in recent times, but as of yet it is unclear which of the competing ideas will win out. Until then, individuals and small business owners are left to contend with the thorny issue of acquiring private insurance policies. Such plans are generally substantially more expensive than group plans offered by large companies, and those cost increases can come in the form of higher monthly payments, co-payments, or deductibles (and often all of the above). Bearing this in mind, here are some tips for finding the best private insurance deals.
If you recently quit your job or got laid off, your choice is the simplest: COBRA. This is government program that essentially allows you an extension of your employer health care plan for up to 18 months. Your company no longer subsidizes the cost, so your monthly premiums will be higher than what you were paying previously. However, you get the complete coverage of a group plan, and avoid troubles with preexisting conditions that can occur when you switch to a new private insurance plan. Especially if you expect to rejoin another company that offers benefits soon, COBRA is the best option for private insurance coverage.
As a small business owner, the answer is less straightforward, but choices are available. The best deals are often available to groups of businesses that can be treated as a health group. Check with local business associations to see what options are present in your area. Furthermore, for groups that traditionally operate on a freelance basis, there are local and national trade groups that you can join to get group health coverage, as well as general self-employed organizations that offer health insurance coverage.
If you are healthy and your tolerance for risk is high, a high-deductible plan should be the bare minimum of insurance that you carry. These plans may have deductibles in the range of $ 2500 or more, but they also offer the lowest monthly payments. Though they offer little coverage for day-to-day expenses like doctor's visits and prescription drug coverage, they will protect you from catastrophic costs in the event of a major accident or illness.
The most difficult private insurance option choices occur when you are trying to find coverage for a preexisting health condition. Depending on the nature of the condition, health insurance companies may refuse to cover treatment, charge exorbitantly high premiums, or reject your insurance application entirely. In this case the only option may be to see if your state offers some variation of "insurance of last resort." These are generally high-risk pools, so prices are quite high, but they can not reject people for preexisting health conditions.
Your private insurance decisions will ultimately depend on your circumstances, where you are willing to risk high deductibles and where you need full coverage despite the costs. Trying to find a new private insurance plan is a frustrating process, and hopefully Congress will put together a plan to offer relief soon. Until then, diligent research is your best option for finding affordable private health insurance.