We don’t think of it too often; as a matter of fact, unless we are faced with a health crisis or need, we don’t think about health insurance at all! It is no wonder that many of us are caught unawares when an emergency happens, and some of us suddenly realize that the insurance coverage we had ten years ago is woefully out of date for our current needs. While purchasing insurance can be a daunting task in itself, please remember that any plan is only as good as the company that underwrites and stands behind it. To this end, here are ten things to consider before choosing your next insurance company:
When purchasing an individual health insurance policy, the underwriter will look at your medical history. Prior to comparing rates, be sure to write down all pertinent information, so you will be able to compare apples to apples. Additionally, it will give you a feel for what kind of information raises red flags for insurance companies. If you suddenly deal with a company that does not bat an eyelash at your skydiving accident that happened just last month, you will need to ask a few more questions to make sure the rates don’t suddenly change after you sign on.
Most companies will not insure pre-existing conditions; others will do so after a sometimes lengthy waiting period. Still others are legally mandated to carry “guaranteed issue” policies. Prior to signing on with a company, get a detailed list of what is considered a pre-existing condition, the exclusionary period, and also what kind of coverage will be provided one the exclusion ends.
A licensed, independent insurance agent is a goldmine of information and industry gossip. Furthermore, the agent will be able to share feedback received from other clients about a given health insurance company, insurance products, and even customer service.
When picking an insurance company it is imperative that its products and coverages can grow with you and your changing needs. Thus, a company that specializes in catastrophic coverage only will be of little use once you have children in the house.
Since you will have to live with the health plan of your choosing, it is imperative that it will work for and with you. Therefore, you should think through your wants and needs when it comes to coverage. For example, how important is it to you to pick your own doctors? If it does not really matter to do, then an HMO may be a cost-saving choice. On the other hand, if you have a favorite doctor and wish to continue consulting this physician rather than picking someone else, you may wish to consider the pricier PPO.
Some companies will bundle their products with other coverages, such as short- and long-term disability, prescription drug coverage, dental and vision coverage. If these are important to you, you should make sure the insurance company you wish to do business with will offer them.
Take the time to look at the fine print. For example, how much are the co-pays? Is there an annual cap on the co-pays? Do these caps pertain to a calendar year or any 365-day period? In addition to co-pays, what is the percentage of coverage?
An insurance company should be easy to get a hold of, should have extended office hours, and naturally also a toll-free number. Give the company a call and get a feel for average hold times, times of operation, and also services offered via telephone.
Check out the insurance company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau. A company that has too many unanswered complaints does not need your business!
Talk to friends and neighbors who are insured with the company you are choosing, or if you are working with an agent, seek to find out how often the insurance companies has raised its rates in the last two years. This will be a fair measure of the possible rate changes that will await you once you sign on!