Friday, January 16, 2009

Affordable Health Insurance

EverythingHealth is featuring a guest post today from health blogger Elaine Newland.


Get Proactive to Find Affordable Health Insurance

In the midst of the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression, Americans are hearing frightening words like "bankruptcy" and "foreclosure" with alarming frequency. What most people don't know, especially the more than 40 million citizens who have no health coverage , is that unresolved medical expenses constitute the single most prevalent reason for personal bankruptcy in this country. There are likely many things you cannot afford in the current recession, but health coverage isn't one of them.

Businesses, especially small "Mom and Pop" endeavors are looking at the bottom line for 2009 and deciding what can be cut. Benefits will likely be the first thing to go with layoffs to follow, raising the specter of an additional 40 million Americans experiencing a break in their health coverage for a period of months or years to come. This situation will inevitably shift the responsibility for seeking coverage to individuals who may have no idea how to find affordable health insurance policies. As with all matters relative to insurance, the first thing to do is to research the facts and understand the law. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, time will be on your side. Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), workers who lose their jobs can maintain health coverage through their former employer's plan for up to 18 months. That's more than enough time to weigh options and to find reasonable, low costs replacement coverage.

Since most families do not have a health savings account; in this endeavor, the Internet is an invaluable tool. As a bottom line position, a family of four in good health can expect to find a medical plan with a deductible of roughly $1,000 for monthly payments of approximately $400. Such plans generally include co-payments on doctor's visits of $30 and on generic drugs of $10. (Remember, the higher the deductible the policy holder is willing to assume, the lower the monthly payments will be.) Applicants will need to answer health questions, to open their health records for examination, and to potentially undergo a new physical examination. Do not rule out short-term coverage if the prospects for re-employment are good. Normally short-term coverage of six months or so will be less expensive because the policies do not cover existing medical conditions and offer less in terms of reimbursement.

After researching coverage online, consumers should take the quotes they receive to a physical insurance agency and be prepared to bargain. Even if you do not go with the agent's offer, it is likely that you will learn useful information about potential riders to your policy. Bear in mind, however, that insurers are looking for business in this tough economy as well and it is entirely possibly that through shrewd negotiation, you may get a better rate. Also, consider your membership in various professional groups -- even alumni associations -- and see if you qualify for coverage at a low rate as a benefit of your affiliation.

Through careful research and a willingness to bargain, it is perfectly possible to find affordable, comprehensive coverage. The one thing you cannot afford to do, however, is to simply let your coverage lapse or to take the first rate that is offered. Without national health care coverage, the consumer's only safeguard against disastrous medical expenses is proactive personal intervention to ensure your coverage doesn't lapse and that you aren't paying more than you can afford and more than is reasonable.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Two years ago the company a friend worked for was sold to a Canadian lawyer, then later he closed it with no notice, and COBRA was not offered at all. In his case he also lost three weeks of accrewed paid vacation time, some people were not even paid for the rest of their hours they had already worked. The Canadian owner tried to take all the American clinet contacts for his Canadaian branch after running the formerly successfully owned American Company into the ground.

COBRA isn't always a given choice when the owner is not American in another country and trying to purposely declare bankruptcy on the American company. Often for many people when losing their job it can be too expensive to pay or keep paying.

Do you have any info. of where to tell people to go to get insurance with pre- existing conditions where a Health Ins. will accept them in an affordable range? That is almost impossiable to get that is affordable when marked pre-existing.

Most people know about COBRA and the lower premimum vs higher deductiable if they have been in the working world and been laid off. Elaine Newland do you have any more health insurance info. that is less common and not so obvious that isn't already known that is helpful?

Another choice Major Medical Ins. that can usually be purchased at a less expensive monthly payment but only covers catastrophic emergencies. It is a good in between coverage compared to nothing at all before finding a reagualr ins. when COBRA is not offered or too high of a cost for monthly payments.

shadowfax said...

Um, your guest author is clearly delusional, cherry-picking plans, or lives in a state with a very different insurance climate than the other 49. The average premium, nationally, for a family is $1000/month. Maybe if you have no medical history at all, it might be possible to get a family plan for that cheap ($400), but I have never seen one. I have a fair amount of experience in managing corporate plans and the summary line "Through careful research and a willingness to bargain, it is perfectly possible to find affordable, comprehensive coverage." is simply untrue, unless your definition of affordable is rather different from mine.

I would have found this mire credible if the author had provided specific examples to back up her pollyana-ish claims, and if the links had not been to a site soliticing quotes. I was actually wondering whether your got spammed somehow...

Anonymous said...

Shadowfax: I totally agree with your comment on the guest blogger.

Dr.Brayer's articles are more informative and have more exmples or evidence to back up what she is saying and brings up newer information.

Anonymous said...

If you don't work for a big company you can't get medical insurance.
visit : http://insuranceball.blogspot.com/

Healthnut said...

There are people out there who are screwed after a layoff because if the company is in financial distress, the company can cut out COBRA.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/21/MNA414N4C4.DTL&type=business&tsp=1

And if one has a pre-condition, it's even tougher to get affordable insurance. I have heard that insurance for a cancer patient runs 5 digits per year.

But for those on medication(s) and are having trouble affording, there is a program called the Partnership for Prescription Assistance aimed to help those in need.

https://www.pparx.org/ViewCompanies.php

Anonymous said...

Healhnut thanks for the
Prescription Assistance link I'm going to pass it on to someone I know would might be helped by it that was laid off and haveing trouble continuing to afford COBRA.