Shopping for Individual Health Insurance

by Miranda Marquit

One of the biggest concerns right now in America is health care. This affects your personal finances on a variety of levels. And some people are increasingly finding that they are on their own for health insurance. Whether the small business that they work for no longer offers health insurance, or whether they think they can do better on their own, many people are looking for individual health insurance plans.

Things to look at when shopping for individual health insurance:

Deductible. If you are looking to save money on your health insurance, look for a plan with a higher deductible. If your health is generally good, you can save money by increasing the amount you pay out of pocket. To prepare for this, though, it is important that you establish some sort of an emergency fund so that you can pay your deductible should something happen.

Hint: A Health Savings Account can help you fund your deductible. If you have what is known as a Qualified High Deductible Health Plan, you can put pre-tax money in a special savings account. You have to use that money for medical expenses, though. And your deductible counts in this category. Many people also use these accounts to fund eye doctor and dental visits (or even maternity) rather than getting separate insurance for these items. Just be aware that some plans are “use it or lose it” each year. So make sure you understand the implications of the plan.

Reputation. No matter what company you choose, there will be unhappy customers. But you can look at companies that provide better coverage. If you want serious savings, you can consider an HMO. There are HMOs out there that offer very good care and excellent plans. However, you should be aware that some treatment options will not be available under an HMO.

Choosing your health care provider. Before you choose your plan, make sure that your health care provider is covered. There are plans that allow you to use out of network providers, but it may cost more. If you want to save some money, though, choose a plan that is strictly in-network.

Limits. Many plans have lifetime limits. Carefully check yours. If the limit is lower, the coverage will cost less. You may want to make sure that you have alternative ways of paying for these expenses if necessary.

Health insurance rates. Health insurance rates are steadily increasing, so it is important to consider how much your proposed health insurance plan will cost. One of the bests ways to find lower health insurance rates is to shop around. You can get free health insurance rate quotes on this site, or through a third party provider such as

Health insurance for the self-employed

When you are self-employed, it can be a daunting task to find health insurance. Individual coverage is often more expensive than group coverage because you have less leverage. There are, however, places you can go to to get individual health care. There are co-ops (these aren’t insurance plans, but they can offer services at a reduced cost). Additionally, Health Insurance Resource Center can help you find self-employed health insurance information, and can help you find individual health insurance at a reasonable cost.

If you do pay for individual health insurance, you can deduct a portion of the cost on your taxes. This has been very helpful to me and my freelancing business. It is just one way to help offset the cost.

Alternatives to health insurance

In addition to co-ops, there are other options. Many pharmacies now offer discount prescription card programs. Additionally, some service providers have started offering a cash discount. Call around to see which professionals in your area will give you break if you pay immediately with cash. In some cases it can be as much as a 20% to 30% discount. You can even use a Health Savings Account for your health needs, if you have very few of them.

If you know that you will need the help, and you can’t afford insurance, check with Medicaid and Medicare to see if you qualify. Additionally, many states offer insurance programs to help the uninsured that don’t quite qualify for federal help. These programs are widely available for children — something to keep in mind if you have kids.

Paying for health care can be frustrating. However, there are ways to reduce your costs and resources you can use.

Published or updated July 31, 2011.
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Ed Harris

As an Ohio broker for 27 years, I wholeheartedly agree that the HSA is a tremendous tool. Unfortunately, it is underutilized.

A healthy family with an expensive health plan is obviously a prime candidate for an HSA. Depending on your state, there can be a wide variance in rates, so remember to check different carriers.

And finally, A “single” family deductible, as opposed to a “multiple” family deductible is much more desirable and not that much more expensive.

I have an HSA, and so far…so good!


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