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Money & Finance
Articles: Money

Going Without Health Insurance

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When my husband lost his job the last thing on my mind was our health insurance, but let me say that this is one of the most stressful parts of losing a job. You never realize the importance of your health insurance until you have lost it. At the time, I was pregnant with my son and so we could not afford to allow our insurance to lapse with a baby due to arrive at any minute. We were offered the Cobra plan, but after one month of being on it and paying almost seven hundred dollars for just a month of coverage, I knew that we were going to have to look into another option for our family.and quickly.

There is a growing epidemic of Americans going without health insurance. In 2003 there were 43.6 million of us who were not carrying coverage. Each year it seems that the rate is increasing and our state politicians are doing their best at coming up with plans for more of us to carry benefits, but unfortunately their efforts have been less than fruitful for the majority of us. Reasons for not carrying health insurance range from unemployment, small businesses requiring employees to chip in more money than the years before, and the increasing rise on healthcare prices. Rest assured, that cost of healthcare will not be going down soon, but if you find yourself without healthcare there are options out there for you. Here are just a few of the things that you can look into:

Let your fingers do the walking

The first thing that you want to do if you are interested in getting healthcare is to look on your state's employment web site. The easiest way to find what you are looking for is to simply type, "health insurance" in the search field. This search should pop up a huge listing of health insurance companies in your state and it should provide telephone numbers for reaching the companies. Call each of the companies and request information on their non-group plans. They will ask you for some information regarding the number of people in your family, your address, ages of family members and then they will be able to share with you their rates on their plans. Call everyone listed on that list to get information so that you can find the most cost effective route for your family.

You will also want them to quote you with the various deductibles they offer so that you have an idea of the range that it is going to cost you. Have each of them send you a packet of information on their benefits so that you can look these over to find out which company offers the best coverage. Some companies exclude things that you would think would normally be covered. For example, check to see if the insurance carrier pays claims for X-rays, lab work, immunizations, preexisting conditions, and pregnancy. This will determine what plan really is the best value.

Routes to Look Into for the Self-Employed

If you are self-employed you can look into associations which might benefit you and lower the cost of your insurance. The benefit of going with a group plan is that traditionally you end up with lower rates because you are going into this as a group rather than an individual person. Some of the associations that offer this are the AARP, AAA, an alumni association, or you're local Chamber of Commerce. Another bonus of going into a group plan like this are that sometimes these group plans offer other perks and incentives which help you in your business as well. One of the groups that we joined offered assistance with our taxes and a twenty-four hour line to speak with their accountants on staff. These are some extras that you may have to pay for, but it helps to know that you are part of an organization that can help you with all the elements of your business.

Raise Those Deductibles

Most insurance companies offer a wide range of deductibles that you can carry. These deductibles can range from $250 on up to $10,000. My thinking on this is only carry a deductible that you really can pay out of pocket. Carrying a hefty deductible does lower your monthly payments, but if you are paying tons of money for all of your doctor visits, this really isn't working out to your benefit. Maybe you are thinking that you are a very healthy individual so carrying a larger deductible would not be a problem for you? If we all knew that we would never come down with an illness or disease we wouldn't carry health insurance. Insurance is there to protect you if something like this should arise, so be very careful when choosing very large deductibles. For some people, this is their only option especially those with preexisting conditions so carrying a higher deductible, in this case, is better than carrying no insurance at all.

What About Those Discount Clubs?

Another route that you could take would be to join a discount club. Some of these clubs can offer up to 60% discount on your healthcare. The operative words in this case are up to. Very few people are going to offer that high of a discount and I share this with you from my very own experience. I joined a club like this who offered discounts on your prescription coverage, vision coverage, and dental coverage when you joined their insurance company with them only charging me $10 for each club a month. When I went to get my first prescription filled, which was over a hundred dollars, and the pharmacist requested an insurance card, I proudly flashed my discount card to her expecting her to automatically deduct a huge amount off of the total. After a phone call to the company and a long wait for her to type all of the information in, she said that with my discount card, I had saved a whopping two dollars off of my prescription. Not exactly the answer that I was hoping for.

This is typical with the discount clubs, and these are not anywhere near the coverage you get with health insurance. There are many large clubs who offer these types of benefits. For example, Café Entrée advertises that they have over 400,000 medical service providers in their network. Ameriplan, a dental discount club, boasts that they have over 18,000 dentists within their network. When choosing a discount club you really want to research the company well with the Better Business Bureau and then you will want to contact the company directly to find out just who is offering services in your city especially if you live in a rural area. Discount cards really only benefit those who have providers in their area who offer services.

What About Government Plans?

Every state offers some type of government health plan for individuals, but your income usually plays a big part in whether or not you qualify for these. If you have no other options, this is something that you might want to look into. We had our son on one of these plans and in our state we did not have to meet any income qualifications. Our premium was determined upon our income, but the premium was much lower than any we would have had to pay had we gotten insurance through a regular insurance provider.

One thing you want to watch for with these is to find out if the plan will cover you or your family members if you are hospitalized. My son's plan would only cover hospitalization if it was needed for tubes in his ears and nothing else. Had he been hospitalized once for anything serious we would have owed the hospital a lot of money and could have lost our home. We could not afford regular insurance for all three of us so this was the only option for us and we did a lot of praying during those months that he would never need any treatment for anything serious. Make sure you understand what is covered under these government plans and who provides care under these plans so you know where to go when you are ill.

These are the main ways to protect yourself when you find yourself without insurance. One other point I would like to bring up is to never be afraid to discuss this with your doctor should you need medical treatment and you are without insurance. Some doctors may be willing to negotiate prices with you if you are in this type of situation and my philosophy is that it never hurts to ask. The worst thing that the doctor could say is no, but I am a firm believer that almost everything is negotiable and those who are brave and ask are those who are usually rewarded.

I wish you much luck in finding the right option for you and I hope that this article provides some different avenues that you had not thought of to look into as you discover the right insurance option for your family.