Researching health insurance may seem intimidating. After all, there are multiple key criteria to consider, and no one wants to feel like they’re missing something crucial, or being taken for a ride when they’re simply trying to get a quote. In fact, considering the importance of a comprehensive health insurance plan in your life for practical purposes, some people might shy away from comparing rates and coverage for what seems like a complicated and overwhelming task, even at the planning stage. However, with an organized approach, getting a health insurance quote can be easy and efficient.
Chances are, while you won’t need to divulge your life story to receive an insurance quote, some personal information and brief medical history may be required. Generally speaking, health insurance companies want to know what kind of a liability you might be, should they decide to extend coverage to you. The following is a sample list of information you may be asked to provide:
- Personal Information. For insurance companies to verify your identity, confirm current rates and policies according to your location of residence, and contact you with additional information or general correspondence, you will be expected to share personal and contact information, such as your full name, date of birth, zip code, phone and/or email address where you can be reached, and, possibly, your Social Security Number. Insurance companies are also increasingly interested in knowing how you became aware of their services, which helps them to determine active demographics and effective marketing strategies.
- Medical History. Insurance companies will likely want to know about any and all of your significant hospitalizations, ongoing medications, surgeries, and recurring or chronic illnesses or diseases. This determines not only the parameters of your potential coverage, but also speaks to the possibility of a “pre-existing condition,” which may result in the insurance companies denying coverage. To this end, insurance adjusters may also ask for the company name, as well as start/end dates for your previous health insurance policies.
- Budget. Be forthcoming about your financial concerns. It is likely that the adjuster will ask you for your ideal budget so that they can help you find affordable coverage. An especially helpful representative may also ask if you have any additional preferences or coverage needs to customize your policy. Don’t hesitate to speak up — having parameters in mind will help to narrow your prospects.
Finding What You’re Looking For
Once you’re prepared to start getting policy quotes, what exactly are the key factors you’re looking for, anyway? What are your coverage needs, and how will you know when you find the perfect policy? While everyone is different, there are a few touchstones to help gauge which options are right for you:
- Services Covered/Network Physicians. Depending on your needs, health insurance companies offer a variety of coverage. Some plans emphasize general wellness and minimal coverage, barring an unforeseen emergency, assuming you are not concerned with visiting a doctor very often, while other plans provide more comprehensive coverage, allowing for frequent doctor visits and/or treatments and major medical care, and with services not included on a basic, standard policy. Also, most insurance companies offer a choice between HMO and PPO plans. HMO plans, which require you to coordinate all care through a primary care provider of your choice, are more sensible if you have a specific physician in mind, while PPO plans are the right option if you’re comfortable with choosing a doctor from the insurance company’s “network,” which is usually a nationwide database of thousands of carefully screened physicians and specialists.
- Deductible/Co-Pay. Insurance companies use deductibles and co-payments to determine how much you will be required to pay out-of-pocket for major medical expenses before the insurance company pays its share. Although seeing large dollar amounts for your deductible may seem daunting, don’t be discouraged. In most cases, policies consider co-pays for doctor visits and other minor medical expenses separate from your deductible, so you may not have to pay the full cost out of your own pocket. Consider a fairly inexpensive co-pay option, which is the amount you’ll be expected to pay out-of-pocket for services like doctor visits and prescriptions before the insurance pays for the rest. Look for a reasonably priced co-pay option specified in your policy outline, and you’ll pay a more affordable fee for these services.
- Monthly Premium. There is fairly simple logic that determines your monthly premium payment. Generally speaking, the lower your deductible is, the higher your monthly premium payment will be, and vice versa. This is because when your deductible is low, it means that you will be responsible for fewer health care costs than the insurance company, who will be picking up the tab for the rest once your full deductible is satisfied. So, you’ll pay more each month on your premium for the luxury of not having to pay anything once you reach your deductible limit. Conversely, if you’re paying very little each month for your policy, should you find yourself in a medical emergency that racks up large medical bills, you will be solely responsible for the deductible expense before your insurance kicks in. Typically, many people find it works best to compromise and look for a mid-range deductible with a proportionate, affordable monthly payment.
- Ratings/Reviews. With so many insurance companies online, and even insurance companies using social media these days, the public forum looms large. Whenever possible, be aware of customer ratings and reviews of certain insurance providers, their policies, procedures, and especially their history of customer service. Keep in mind that you are in the process of carefully selecting a health insurance provider that will be responsible for not only your well-being, but also providing peace of mind. Ultimately, you need to feel comfortable that you will receive the best all-around health, wellness, and emergency care.