Individual health insurance can be one of the most confusing (and expensive) aspects of adult life. Of course the best scenario is that your employer, your spouse, or perhaps still your parents, provide you with insurance. But unfortunately that is not always the case, especially for part-time employees or interns. So if you’re stuck without health insurance, here are a few tips to consider while you hunt down care.
Be Healthy And Stay Healthy
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, a health plan may either refuse to cover you, or impose a pre-existing condition exclusion period. However, effective January 1, 2014, insurers will no longer be allowed to impose a pre-existing condition waiting period or refuse insurance to anyone with such a condition. If you’re waiting it out until then, do your best to stay otherwise as healthy as possible. Practice good habits, like following a balanced diet and staying active. It really will make a difference in your overall health, and hopefully limit your need of additional medical care.
Know The Health Insurance Laws And Regulations Of Your State
When shopping for health insurance, it’s important to remember that every state offers different plans, and their prices can be affected by certain regulations that are in place. For example, New York State has a guaranteed-issue policy that requires companies to insure everyone regardless of their health. So before you get discouraged about factors that may affect your eligibility, make sure you include your state when researching insurance policies. This will give you more accurate estimates, and less surprises when you decide which plan to go with.
Does Your School Offer Health Insurance?
Some colleges and universities require that their students have health insurance in order to attend. The good news – many offer low-cost coverage through contracts with private health insurance companies. So if you’re a student desperate for healthcare, get in contact with your admissions office to see if your school does offer healthcare plans.
Your school may offer many different types of student health insurance policies that can cover different needs. As a college student you will have access to different care options, such as student health services, so be careful! The policy may only cover trips to your school’s health services, meaning you may not be covered if you see your normal doctor. Be sure to carefully investigate the coverage options thoroughly before selecting the one that’s right for you. And evaluate your risk of needing to see specialists, have medically necessary procedures, and diagnostic tests and screenings, as they may be excluded from some student health plans.
Health Coverage Through Medicaid
If your family’s income is low, has high medical bills, or if you have a disability, you may qualify for Medicaid. Don’t think you qualify? Think again. The new healthcare reform laws will also expand Medicaid eligibility to include all Americans under age 65 with incomes up to 13% of the federal poverty level, including adults without dependent children. To find out if you are eligible, check with your state’s insurance department.
Get By With A Little Help From Your Parents
Nowadays, you can remain on your parents’ health insurance until you are 26 years old. Every case is different, but in many instances the best option may be to stay on that plan as long as possible, especially if you are receiving full coverage for almost any test or condition. If you find that it is more difficult or expensive to switch to your own individual policy, or if you have no available option on your own, then stay on your folks’ plan.
Once you are over 26 tough, you may lose the health coverage that your parents have been providing, even if you are still attending college. However, you may be eligible for COBRA continuation coverage for some period of time. Your parents, who have been carrying the insurance for you, will need to check with their insurance agent or benefits manager to make sure that you are eligible.
Consider a Health Savings Account
If you have health insurance, but are still reluctant to seek care due to the cost, consider a health savings account. Available for those with HDHPs, or high deductible health plans, an HSA is a great option for people who typically only have to whip out their insurance card once or twice a year. Maybe you go for a yearly checkup, and then to the doctor if you have the flu.
This scenario goes hand in hand with an insurance policy that has a high deductible (typically $1,100 for individuals; $2,200 for families), but low premiums. The money you save on premiums each month can be deposited into the HSA pre-tax, where it grows, tax-deferred. You then use it to pay for any unexpected medical expenses. Since the majority of health claims are less than $2,500, this can reduce your insurance premium by half or more. The best part is once you turn 65, you can withdraw any money you didn’t use and spend it on anything you want, including funding your retirement.
Even if you’re desperate for healthcare, making a hasty, uniformed decision is not the best route. Take the time to do your homework, keep an open mind, and know exactly what you want, and more importantly what you need from a policy.