How to Find Affordable Health Insurance

1.

Research your choices before you buy. Basically, you will be looking into three options--associations, insurance companies and agents. For example, by going to www.eHealthinsurance.com, you will get a menu of options. Sam Gibbs, senior VP of sales, says that this online brokerage represents over 175 different carriers throughout the country. "What's unique about us is that within a given state or zip code level, every insurance plan that is available we put up on our website."

2.

Know your income level. This is very important because it means ascertaining whether you qualify for public assistance or must purchase a plan through a company, such as Aetna, Blue Cross, Horizon, HIP, etc.

3.

Get online and choose appropriately. According to Phil Lebherz, founder of the Uninsured Helpline, 43 million Americans are uninsured but about a third are eligible for "public assistance of some sort." Thus, if you are unsure whether you qualify for public assistance or must buy your own policy, going online will help. On the Uninsured Helpline website you will fill in basic criteria that will allow the portal to direct you to appropriate resources.

4.

Follow up with a phone call. This is important when you have further questions, are unclear about whether a pre-existing condition will disqualify you or you simply have trouble with the idea of buying insurance online.

5.

Reconsider all your options. Before you invest $500 or more of your hard-earned money, reconsider exactly what you are doing and what you and/or your family needs. While the commercialization of the insurance industry in America has its obvious drawbacks--cost, possible inappropriate direction of funds, the rush to push through drugs that may or may not be in Amercicans' best interest--there are also some upsides. The real plus is that the industry is not a monopoly and as a consumer, you hold the cards to shop around. If you are talking to Blue Cross or HIP (in New York), remember there are other options out there that may be a better fit.But don't take too long to figure it out. You want to be covered especially in the case of an accident or serious illness.

Tips and Warnings

  • Make sure you are always covered by some sort of insurance plan. If you don't make enough money for an independent policy, visit the Uninsured Help Line to be connected with a subsidized program to meet your income/family needs.
  • Do your homework by reading all the fine print and following up by calling the toll-free numbers provided on the literature.
  • Do your best to stay healthy. Getting sick in America can be quite costly, even with health insurance.
  • Go to the doctor when you are sick.
  • Make sure you get an annual mammogram if you are a woman over 35 or if you have a history of breast cancer in your family.
  • Don't fool yourself. Just because you are able to attain independent coverage does not mean it won't seriously strain your budget. David Oscar, consumer advocate for the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters, points out that while access to insurance in New Jersey and other states are available, affordability is not as guaranteed.
  • Do not ignore unusual signs your body may be telling you. Anything from skin cancer to blood clots will send clear signals that you must heed. Men, especially, need to drop the "stiff upper lip" approach and go to a doctor.
  • Healthcare costs in the United States have soared over the past several years and subsequently, thousands--if not millions--of Americans have fallen between the cracks. While the problem is indeed challenging for those of low-to-middle-level incomes, doing your research and knowing where to look will give you a leg up in the game.