When trying to find an answer to the question, “how to buy affordable health insurance,” it’s crucial to understand that there are many factors to consider when purchasing health insurance, and it can be tough to find a plan that fits both your needs and your budget.
Finding an affordable health insurance company that meets your every need is no small feat, which is one reason why approximately 9.7% of Americans are uninsured. Affordable medical insurance isn’t a myth or only for the wealthy. There are dozens of resources available, including your local department of health services, to help you find the coverage you need at a price you can afford.
Where Can I Go If I Don’t Have Medical Insurance?
For the uninsured, the task of researching affordable health insurance options can seem daunting. With so many plans and providers to choose from, it can take time to know where to begin. If you’re searching for affordable health insurance on your own, you’ll want to start by asking yourself the following questions:
Does Your Employer Offer Medical Insurance?
If you’re currently employed, then the first place you should check is with your employer. While many companies do offer affordable medical insurance options, many do not. If you’ve only recently begun working, you should have been informed of your health insurance options during your employee onboarding.
If you’ve been employed for some time and were initially denied your employer-sponsored health insurance, you can ask your HR team to send you the coverage your employer currently offers and information on how to enroll.
Is the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace Right for Me?
Another valuable resource for those looking to buy affordable medical insurance is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace.
The federal government enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on March 23, 2010. The Affordable Care Act’s primary purpose was to provide more Americans with affordable health insurance coverage.
The Affordable Care Act did this by expanding Medicaid, providing subsidies and premium tax credits to help people purchase insurance they can afford, and requiring all Americans to have health insurance or face a tax penalty. This last measure was repealed in 2019, giving Americans more control over their healthcare choices.
The bill included several reforms to the healthcare system, such as requiring all insurance plans to cover certain essential health benefits and prohibiting companies from denying individuals coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
This makes the healthcare marketplace a good resource for affordable health insurance coverage. It offers a vast array of options and is easy to navigate. Once you’ve applied for coverage, you can effortlessly search through available plans that were curated for you based on your specific needs.
Is It Cheaper to Have Private Health Insurance?
Another option aside from purchasing insurance through the marketplace or enrolling through your employer is to buy private health insurance. These are plans provided by private companies, including Golden Rule Insurance Company and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and can be a good option for those who need specialized care.
However, these options aren’t always the cheapest, often requiring higher monthly premiums and having to choose a high-deductible health plan to get the best coverage.
Is Short-Term Health Insurance an Affordable Option?
Short-term health insurance is a type of health insurance that typically provides coverage for a period of one to six months. Short-term health insurance plans are not required to comply with the ACA’s rules and regulations, which means they don’t have to provide the essential health benefits outlined in the ACA legislation, can exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, charge higher premiums based on health status, and impose lifetime and annual dollar limits on coverage.
Short-term health insurance plans are typically much less expensive than ACA-compliant marketplace plans. However, the coverage options are usually limited to emergency medical services and a select few other services – making them less appealing to those looking for health coverage that would provide comprehensive care.
Tips for Picking the Right Health Insurance Plan For Your Needs
Once you think you’re ready to shop around for affordable health insurance, you’ll want to research your options and familiarize yourself with some of the common terminologies you will come across. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Know Your Family’s Medical Needs
One of the most important things to understand before shopping for health insurance is your family’s medical needs. This includes understanding any pre-existing conditions that may need to be covered and any anticipated medical needs in the future.
Knowing this information helps you choose a plan that provides the right level of coverage for your family. It will also help you avoid paying for coverage you don’t need.
Compare Types of Health Insurance Plans
It’s essential to compare the different types of health insurance plans before deciding. Different plans provide various types of coverage; some may be better suited to your needs than others. Below are the most common types of plans you’ll come across:
- Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO): An EPO is a plan that provides coverage only to a specific hospital or doctor network.
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA): An FSA is a special account that enables you to pay for eligible medical expenses with pre-tax dollars.
- Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): HMOs are usually the most basic type of health insurance plan. They provide limited benefits and cover a limited range of services within a specific network of doctors and hospitals.
- Point of Service Plan (POS): A POS plan enables you to pay less for services by choosing a specific doctor or hospital from a network of providers. It also requires a referral from your primary care doctor for any services provided by a specialist.
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): A PPO is a more comprehensive plan. It allows you to choose your doctor and hospital and includes various services not covered by other plans.
Understand the Difference between Plan Levels
Not only are there several different plan options available when researching affordable health insurance plans, but there are also several plan types that you need to familiarize yourself with, including:
- Bronze Health Insurance Plans: Bronze plans are the most basic and cover a limited range of services. They are the most affordable option because they have lower premiums.
- Silver Health Insurance Plans: Silver plans have more coverage than bronze ones. They have higher premiums than bronze plans, but they also have a wider range of coverage for those looking for comprehensive care.
- Gold Health Insurance Plans: Gold plans offer the most comprehensive coverage and have considerably higher premiums but lower upfront costs when you need care. They offer one of the widest coverage ranges and are the best option for those seeking more comprehensive care for chronic illnesses and other medical needs.
- Platinum Health Plans: Platinum plans are an excellent option for someone who may require more intensive care or who has a chronic condition. They have the highest premiums, but the lowest upfront costs, and deductibles are usually very low.
Choosing a health insurance plan is a big decision, and it’s essential to compare the benefits of each plan before making a choice. Some plans may have lower premiums, but they may also have higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Other plans may have higher premiums but offer more comprehensive coverage.
Make Sure to Compare Out-of-Pocket Costs
Finally, you want to ensure you are taking the time to familiarize yourself with the out-of-pocket costs associated with each plan. Some terms you’ll want to familiarize yourself with are:
- Annual Deductible: the annual deductible is the amount you must pay out of your pocket each year before your plan starts covering the costs of care.
- Coinsurance: coinsurance is a percentage you must pay for each service you receive.
- Copays: a copay is a fixed dollar amount you must pay out of your pocket before you can receive care.
- Out-of-Pocket Maximum: A limit on the amount you pay out of your pocket for health care.
- Premium: The monthly price you pay for your health insurance coverage.
What to Look For in a Health Insurance Plan
Knowing what to look for in a plan is essential when shopping for health insurance. There are a lot of different factors to consider, which can be overwhelming. But if you keep a few key things in mind, you can find a suitable plan for you and your family.
Check for and Review Benefit Summaries
When shopping for health insurance, you always want to check for a benefits summary. This is a short breakdown of the coverage and cost for a specific plan. You can use it to help you decide which plan to go with by comparing the prices and benefits of each one you’re considering.
A Provider Network You’re Comfortable With
It’s also important to choose a provider network you’re comfortable with. A provider network is a group of doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers agreeing to provide care to people with a specific health insurance plan. You’ll want to make sure that the providers in the network are ones you’re comfortable with and that you’ll be able to get the care you need.
Prescription Drug Coverage
Another vital factor to consider is prescription drug coverage. You’ll want to make sure that your plan covers the prescriptions you take regularly. You should also check to see what the coverage is for other prescription drugs. Some plans have a limited number of medications they cover, while others have more comprehensive coverage with fewer limitations on what you can and cannot take and how frequently you can refill your prescriptions.
How to Buy Affordable Health Insurance in 7 Steps
With this wealth of information at your fingertips, it’s time to get to work. Here’s how to buy affordable health insurance in seven steps:
1. Head Over to HealthCare.Gov
If you’ve ruled out employer-sponsored coverage, then the next step is to head over to HealthCare.gov. This is the official government website where you can find all the information you need about the different types of coverage available and enroll in a plan that meets your needs.
2. Set Up Your Application
During your application setup process, you’ll be asked a few basic questions, including:
- Your Family Status
- Household Income
- Address/Zip Code
These will help determine if you qualify for financial assistance, which can be a massive help if you can’t afford the full cost of coverage, as well as tell you if there is a better plan in your area through your local government programs, including Medicaid coverage or a children’s health insurance program. Should that be the case, you’ll be directed to your local health and human services site to find out what’s available in your area.
3. Enter Personal and Household Information
The next step in your application will be to fill in personal details about your family and all dependents. This section includes your household’s tax information, social security numbers, date of birth, etc.
4. Report Current Coverage Status and Life Changes
Whether you’re applying for new coverage or simply looking to renew your current coverage, you’ll need to answer a few questions about current health coverage and recent life changes like getting married or moving. Anything considered a qualifying life event (marriage, new child, moving) should be included in your application, as it could affect your eligibility for financial assistance.
5. Submit Your Application
After reviewing your application and filling out all the required fields, you’ll submit it for approval.
6. Compare Plans
Once your application has been approved, you can shop through the recommended healthcare plans in your local area. If you’ve been approved for financial assistance, make sure you apply it when comparing plans to see which is the best fit for your budget. It could very well mean the difference between choosing a bronze or silver plan or even a silver and gold plan.
7. Enroll in Coverage
Once you’ve found a plan that is a good fit for you and your family, you’ll enroll in that plan, pay your first month’s premium, and in a few days/weeks, you’ll receive your insurance card in the mail. Remember that your effective coverage date will likely be the first of the following month.
Get Help Enrolling in Affordable Health Insurance Today
Now that you know how to buy affordable health insurance, it’s time to get started. If you have any questions about the process, be sure to reach out to a certified insurance agent who can help you find the right plan for your needs.
Whether looking into private health insurance or needing help navigating the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, the Fiorella Health Insurance Agency is here to help. Contact our team today to get started.