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Decisions to Make Before You Shop Online For Health Insurance

A November Gallup poll reported that two-thirds of uninsured Americans who tried shopping for health insurance on State and Public Health Exchanges said they had a negative experience. The launch of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) website created confusion and frustration for millions because of website problems as well as the difficulty in comparing costs of the various options.

Health insurance coverage can be a confusing issue for many Americans—both the uninsured and insured. Finding a healthcare plan with the right balance of choices and costs can be a complex process. Shopping online for health insurance isn’t as easy as buying an airline ticket or a new pair of shoes--especially if you don’t know exactly what you need before you shop.

Read these easy steps for making healthcare coverage decisions:

Determine your insurance coverage needs first.

It is a good idea to discuss your personal/family situation with a Certified Financial Planner or an experienced health insurance agent who understands the ins and outs of health insurance and provider networks and can advise accordingly. Armed with this knowledge, you can determine which plan offers the amount of coverage, premium payments, and deductible that fits your budget.

Establish your priorities.

For some people, cost of a plan is the driving factor. For others it may be the choice of doctors. Decide what’s most important to you first. You will most likely have to make some trade-offs between premium costs, deductible, and your provider network.

For example, my family has had a UnitedHealthOne insurance plan since 2004. Although our premiums usually increase every year, we are willing to pay the minimal increase in return for what we want: an extensive provider network, the ability to retain our trusted personal physicians, and prompt customer service.

Consider your coverage options. If you are employed, health care coverage may be available through an employer-sponsored group plan. This plan is typically the most cost effective option.

If you do not have the option of an employer-sponsored group plan, you will want an individual plan. These plans are offered through a State Exchange, a Federal Exchange or a Private Insurance Company. In Missouri, there is no State Exchange. Many people may qualify for federal subsidies, making plans more affordable.

Compare plans. Request an individual or family quote for a health care plan from the Exchanges or an Insurance Company or both. Most quotes are free, can be requested online, and are returned to you instantly.

I will provide more details on each of these steps in future posts.

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