Many health insurance companies update their rates at the beginning of the year. With Americans all over the country struggling financially due to the slow economy and holiday credit card bills, now is a great time for consumers to take a fresh look at their medical coverage and make sure they still have the right plan for their needs and budget.
To give your current health insurance coverage a check-up, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I paying too much for coverage? Shop around for the latest health insurance quotes at least once a year to make sure you're not paying more than you need to. For example, if you're healthy and had few or no health insurance claims in 2009, you may be able to reduce your monthly premiums by switching to a plan with a higher deductible or just finding more affordable plans on the market. If you do switch to a higher deductible plan, be sure you can afford that deductible in case of an accident or unexpected illness.
- Does my current plan cover the services I need? If you're paying for benefits you don't use (such as prescription drugs, maternity or chiropractic care), you may be able to find a plan with a lower monthly premium that excludes those benefits. On the other hand, if you find that you're paying too much out of pocket for recurring medical services (like prescriptions or checkups), you may want to consider a plan that covers these at a higher level, even if your monthly premium increases slightly.
- Have I experienced any big life changes? If you were recently married or divorced, had a child, or gained or lost income—or if you anticipate these things happening in the year to come—it may be time to reconsider your health insurance options. And if you recently turned 30, 40, 45, 55 or 60 years old, you may find that your rates were increased because of your age. Take a look at quotes from other health insurance companies in your area to make sure you're not paying too much.
- Do I have access to the doctors I want to see? If you'd like to be seen by a specific doctor or hospital not covered by your current plan, contact the doctor’s office to find out which health insurance plans he or she accepts. If you're on an HMO plan and want to be able to see a specialist without a referral, you may wish to consider a different type of coverage, like a PPO plan, for example.
- Can I save by mixing and matching health plans? If your whole family is covered under a single health insurance plan, you could be missing out on savings. When some family members are healthier than others or see the doctor less frequently, it may make sense to split the family between two or more health insurance plans. You may find more appropriate coverage for each member that way, and save money on your total monthly premiums.
Keep in mind that, in most states, every time you switch plans or apply for a new individual or family health insurance plan, you are subject to medical underwriting. If you are already covered by a health insurance plan you bought on your own and developed medical conditions recently, you may need to stay on that plan to keep your coverage secured.
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