Buying health insurance can be a complicated process for many people. There are so many different facets when you buy health insurance that it can be easy to feel lost or not know what to do in order to get the best health insurance plan for your money.
However, purchasing an independent health insurance plan also has its perks because it means you get to call the shots, ensuring every aspect of your health is covered the way you want it to be, in case of a sudden illness, an unexpected accident, or even routine check-ups.
So if you’re a recent graduate, self-employed, a small employer, or just someone looking to switch healthcare insurance plans, we’ve got you!
By following these recommendations, you’ll be able to buy health insurance on your own —in the United States— with confidence and know what benefits, costs, and limitations you’re agreeing to when you enroll.
Factors to Consider Before Buying Your Own Health Insurance
There are several critical factors you should keep in mind to choose the right plan, before buying health insurance:
Coverage: First and foremost, pay close attention to what the health insurance plan offers — if it covers your specific needs, like prescription drugs, preventive care, or maternity medical services. It’s all about getting the best you can get for your money.
Costs: Evaluate the plan’s overall cost, including monthly premiums, deductibles (the money you shell out before your insurance kicks in), and out-of-pocket maximums (the most you’ll pay in a year). Make sure it aligns with your budget and financial goals.
Insurance Plan’s Network: Do you like a certain doctor or a trusted healthcare provider? Then you must become aware of an insurance plan’s network. Some insurance plans may require you to visit a physician or hospital that is within their specific network of healthcare providers or you won’t receive coverage. If you are considering a health plan, you may want to see if your preferred physician is listed within that health plan’s network before you purchase a policy from them.
Affordability and Reliability: Consider not just the cost, but also the overall affordability of the plan. Look at the bigger picture — can you consistently afford it? Keep in mind reliability as well; you want a plan that won’t leave you hanging when you need it the most.
Future-Proofing: Think about your current health status and potential future needs. Are you planning a family? Will you need a spouse’s plan? Do you have any chronic conditions? Your insurance should adapt to your life, not the other way around.
So Where Can I Buy Health Insurance On My Own?
Health Insurance Marketplaces
These are your go-to places for exploring a variety of health insurance plans. You can find them through gov websites, like Healthcare.gov, or the NY State of Health Marketplace if you are from New York.
Within these health insurance marketplaces, you’ll discover different plan categories addressed to various needs, from basic coverage to more comprehensive options. It’s like a shopping mall for insurance.
Directly from Health Insurance Companies
Cutting out the middleman, you can purchase health insurance directly from insurance companies. The advantage here is that you can get precise information about their offerings and insurance policies. However, do your homework, as you’ll need to research each of them individually.
Through Health Insurance Agents and Brokers
If you prefer a bit of personalized guidance, consider working with a health insurance broker or agent. They can help you by providing expert advice, and assist in finding the right plan for you. Often, they have access to multiple insurance providers, giving you a broader spectrum of choices.
During Open Enrollment
Keep an eye on those calendar dates! Open Enrollment is the designated period each year when you can sign up for health insurance or make changes to your existing plan. It’s a fantastic opportunity to secure coverage, but remember to act within the specified timeframe. If you miss the deadline, you won’t be able to get a health insurance plan.
Special Open Enrollment Periods may also be available under certain qualifying life events, such as losing other coverage, moving, getting married, or having a baby.
The next Annual Open Enrollment Period for health insurance starts on November 1, 2023 and ends on January 15, 2023.
Comparing Health Insurance Plans
When it comes to comparing health insurance options, it’s crucial to avoid some common mistakes that can lead to confusion and frustration.
One big mistake is solely focusing on the monthly premium. While low premiums might seem tempting, it could mean higher out-of-pocket costs in the long run. So, don’t let that number fool you — look at the bigger picture:
- How much is a typical copay?
- What services or procedures are excluded from the health plan?
- What are the deductibles (if any)?
- Is there a cap on certain medical coverages?
Another misstep is skipping reading the fine print. Take the time to carefully review the plan’s coverage details, be aware of any restrictions or limitations, like waiting periods for pre-existing conditions — You don’t want to be in for a surprise when you need a particular treatment.
Now, let’s talk about the factors you should consider in your comparison. Think about your own healthcare needs. Are you generally healthy and just need basic coverage, or do you have specific or chronic medical conditions that require more comprehensive care?
A low-cost coverage may save you money upfront, but it could come at the expense of coverage when you need it most. So, take your time, weigh your options, and make a choice that truly suits your health and financial needs.
Coverage Options Available for Independent Health Insurance
Coverage for Young People:
If you’re a young and healthy individual, you might find a cost-effective plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace. These plans offer essential benefits and preventive care, making them an excellent choice for those just starting their healthcare journey.
Self-employed Insurance Coverage
Being your own boss comes with perks and responsibilities, including health insurance. You can either join your spouse’s plan if available, or explore your own health insurance options to ensure you’re covered while pursuing your dreams.
Health Insurance for Small Business Owners
If you’re running a small business, you have the option to provide your employees with a business health insurance plan, often known as a group plan. These plans can offer competitive rates and help you attract and retain top talent while securing coverage for yourself.
Part-Time Employee Insurance
If you’re working part-time, some employers offer health insurance benefits even for part-time employees. It’s worth checking with your employer to see if you qualify for such coverage.
Insurance for Unemployed
If you recently were let go from your work, and are wondering how to get health insurance without a job, COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) allows you to continue your previous employer’s health insurance plan for a limited time, ensuring you stay protected during your job transition.
Other Individual Health Plans and Subsidies
Depending on your household income and specific circumstances, you may qualify for subsidies or other individual health plans outside of the standard options.
Recommendations When Buying Private Health Insurance
Review Your Finances, Budget, and Tax Obligations: Take a look at your monthly finances and see how much income you receive while taking into account other regular expenses. This will give you a ballpark figure of how much you’re able to spend on healthcare coverage.
If you don’t think you can afford medical insurance or just don’t want it, you still have to incorporate a tax obligation into your budget. In some states, people without health insurance plans will have to pay a tax penalty when they file their taxes, so that amount must be considered if you refuse to purchase a health plan. It may be worth purchasing a cheap individual health insurance plan in lieu of paying the tax penalty.
Gather All of Your Health History and Assess Your Needs: When you enroll for a health insurance plan, at minimum, you’ll need to provide your name, birthdate, address, email, phone number, and coverage start date. However, if you want certain types of additional coverage, you’ll need to provide more information.
Know and list any pre-existing conditions that you may have such as diabetes, asthma, allergies, etc. If you took certain prescription medications for a long period of time, provide the start and end dates of the prescription along with the dosage.
If you had any surgeries or hospitalizations, make sure that those are mentioned in your application as well. If you know your family’s medical history, provide that along with your own. While these may seem like extra sensitive information, this will actually help speed up the application and approval process. It can also help guide you to a plan that can cover specific medical needs or potential health problems you may experience in the future. It’s best to have all this information provided so you don’t accidentally get a plan that won’t provide coverage for a recurring health issue.
Compare and Contrast All of Your Options: It is imperative that you compare health insurance plans to make sure you are getting the best one for your money. Don’t be afraid to shop around and get different quotes for different plans. It is also worthwhile to see if you qualify for other health coverage options due to extreme financial hardship or other qualifiers.
Don’t Auto-Renew: While it is convenient to have your current health insurance plan renew itself automatically each year, your health needs may have changed. You don’t want to be stuck with a plan that won’t cover any new health needs that may have arisen. On top of that, there may be new insurance options available to you that are cheaper or provide more coverage at the price you are currently paying. This small inconvenience could save you more money in the long term.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Even following all of these tips can still make a person feel overwhelmed when purchasing a health insurance plan. However, you don’t have to do this alone. Certified officials working with the ACA and Covered California are happy to assist you in-person or over the phone to find you the best health insurance plan.
Insurance companies also have licensed agents that can help answer any questions you have and help you fill out your health insurance application. There is nothing worse than feeling unsure about your health plan. Don’t be afraid to reach out to make sure you are getting all of your needs met without confusion or worry.
Whether you’re on the hunt for self-employed insurance, health insurance for small business owners, or just exploring options outside of company health insurance, these recommendations are your guiding light.
Still want some assistance finding a health insurance plan? Freeway Insurance can help. Freeway can help guide you to a health plan that will fit your needs at the best price possible. Give us a call at 877-583-1475 or get a free health insurance quote online to get started.