By Wendy Mihm | February 22, 2011
If you are self-employed, laid off or just in-between jobs, you no longer have an HR department to handle your health insurance for you.
You’re on your own to figure out how to shop for, and purchase a health insurance plan for yourself and, if you have them, your employees.
It can be a murky topic, and so I’ve compiled a list of 5 simple tips to clear up the waters and get you moving in the right direction.
Tip 1: There is no difference between “self employed” insurance and “individual” or “family” insurance.
It just means that you are not covered under a major employer’s plan any longer. Stated a different way, there is no difference between health insurance for people who are self-employed and health insurance for and individuals and families.
Tip 2: If you run your own small business or are simply buying health insurance for your family, there are no special prices or treatments just because your status is “self-employed” or “family.”
This does not mean that some unscrupulous health insurance salesperson might not try to offer you his or her “special discount” on an individual insurance policy. Unfortunately there are dishonest people out there, but don’t believe it – there simply is no such thing. Yes, there are plans tailored for individual and small companies, but there are no “special discounts” or “sales.” The price this person is offering you is the same as any other agent can offer you. Why? Because if it’s a true insurance policy, any plan that offers the same benefits by the same provider, must be priced the same. It’s the law.
How To Use Online Insurance Quote Engines
As an individual, family or business owner, the most efficient way to shop for health insurance and compare plans is to use an online individual and/or family health insurance quote engine. These will allow you find plans available in your geographic area, and then compare prices offered by different companies, head-to-head.
Tip 3: Reputable quote engines will allow you to search for plans by just entering in basic information.
This information will most often include your birth date, gender, smoking status and zip code. Other information will likely be requested, but it should be optional. The sign of a disreputable quote engine is one that requires you to enter details like a phone number, email or mailing address to get quotes. This is a signal that a live agent wants to contact you to sell you a policy. Incessantly. If the info is optional, the sell is likely to be a much softer and appropriate one from a reputable site.
My two favorite two reputable quote engines are at Medicoverage.com and HealthyGrads.com because I know the owners personally, and they provide customer service that is second to none. But there are many to choose from online if you simply Google the term health insurance quote engine.
Once you find a quote tool and enter in the basic information (again, other information will likely be requested, but it should be optional), you should be given the following information about health insurance policies to compare:
- Name of Plan and Provider
- Co-payment or Co-insurance amounts
If you need some help with the terms above, or just want some more in-depth understanding of the ins and outs of health insurance, our article called How to Find Health Insurance is a great place to start.
Tip #4: Pre-existing conditions will close some doors for you.
If you have some serious medical conditions that are considered to be “pre-existing,” meaning you already had them when you applied for the health insurance plan, you are going to get turned down by many policies. I am not going to sugar coat this one for you.
If the Obama Administration’s health care legislation stays in tact, by 2014 the law will prohibit insurers from denying coverage to sicker applicants; i.e., those with pre-existing conditions. It remains to be seen how this will play out.
In the mean time, many are left to shop for coverage against difficult odds. Therefore, if you or someone in your family has a pre-existing condition, it is important to get familiar with the laws in your state, and find out if there is a clause for what is called “guaranteed issued health insurance.” While this type of coverage is often not as inclusive as other types, it will provide you with basic coverage for your health care needs.
Tip #5: Sometimes humans are best.
Quote engines are great – if you find a good one, they can be a lot like Orbitz, only for health insurance policies. But because the health insurance industry is loaded with jargon and because the stakes with health insurance are a bit higher than they are with, say, a choosing a flight to Newark, you just might want to speak to an actual human.
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