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The discounts and cost-sharing offered by health insurance plans are well worth the premium payments. However, premiums can be tricky to work into your budget. It’s important to find an affordable health insurance plan that offers good coverage.
Whether it’s the approaching open enrollment (Nov. 1 – Dec. 15, and in California it’s Oct. 15- Jan. 15) and you’re trying to find a better plan or you qualify for a special enrollment period and are making changes to your current health plan, here are three tips for finding an affordable health insurance plan:
- Set a budget and research current rates
- Check out the health insurance marketplace
- Use comparison websites wisely
Set a budget and research current rates
Calculate how much you spend on health care annually with your current plan. Include monthly premiums and out of pocket expenses. Understanding this will help you know how much you’re currently spending on health care and help you compare costs of new plans.
The next step is to understand the current rates for the number of people on your plan and the coverage level you want. Again, keep in mind that the cost of health insurance includes premiums, the deductible, and out-of-pocket expenses. Knowing the rates and cost-sharing trends will help you recognize a good deal on a health insurance plan.
Understanding what you’re currently spending, setting a budget, and looking at current rates will help you find a plan that’s a good fit for your health and financial situation.
Check out the health insurance marketplace
HealthCare.gov is the health insurance marketplace used by most states. However, some states have their own marketplace website. These marketplace websites only list plans that cover the essential health benefits, per the Affordable Care Act. These benefits include prescriptions, maternal care, mental health, hospital care, preventive care, physical therapy, and emergency services.
When these health insurance exchanges were initially rolled out, the federal government offered subsidies on premiums for individuals and families with qualifying incomes. Although these subsidies are still available, the government stopped compensating insurance companies for them under the Trump administration.
Because HealthCare.gov and state-specific marketplace sites only list qualified plans, they are a great resource for finding comprehensive coverage plans at affordable premium rates.
HealthCare.gov allows users to compare up to three plans side-by-side, check covered prescriptions, and enroll in a plan. Once you select a plan, you have to make a note to yourself of the plan you chose otherwise you’ll loose track of it when you’re filling out the enrollment forms. While it does take some time to fill out the required information when enrolling, the process is smooth and convenient.
Use comparison websites wisely
Private health insurance comparison websites are also great tools to use when exploring all of your options. However, it’s important to use them wisely.
Related: Where to find low-cost services for all the things Medicare doesn’t cover
Not all of the plans listed on these sites offer coverage for the essential health benefits, which means these sites can list a larger number of health insurance plans. While there is potential to save some money by only purchasing the coverage you need, read the plans carefully to make sure that the health services and prescriptions you need are covered.
These websites are extremely useful for health insurance shoppers because they list plans from multiple health insurance companies. While they offer great value to site users, they also generate leads and sales for health insurance companies or independent insurance agents. In many cases, this is a win-win situation.
However, the order of the listings on some websites is affected by these sales relationships. Look for any disclosures like this on the comparison sites you use. These disclosures are usually located at the bottom of the webpage. If there is a disclosure, keep it in mind as you use browse health plans. This way you’ll be better able to find affordable plans that meet your needs.
Be selective of the comparison sites you use and only use sites that show you plan options without requiring contact information. A few comparison sites worth considering are HealthMarkets, HealthCare.com, and GoHealth.
HealthMarkets is a useful health plan comparison website. Users can compare individual and family plans, catastrophic plans, short term plans, Medicare and Medigap plans, and Marketplace plans from more than 200 companies.
HealthMarkets users can also work with licensed agents online or via phone or in-person meeting. The agents can help clients understand their options better and answer questions. This service is offered free to HealthMarkets users.
Another comparison website HealthCare.com focuses its selection of plans on individual and family plans, Marketplace plans, Medicare plans, and Medigap plans. It has over 13,000 health plans listed on its site. If you want to compare Marketplace plans to off-exchange plans, then HealthCare.com is a great resource. HealthCare.com also has licensed insurance agents available to help clients.
Also on MarketWatch: The U.S. can slash health-care costs 75% with 2 fundamental changes — and without ‘Medicare for All’
GoHealth allows users to view temporary insurance, individual and family plans, and Medicare plans on its website from over 300 companies. Like HealthMarkets and HealthCare.com, GoHealth has licensed insurance advisers available for clients to work with.
GoHealth also offers GoHealth Access plans. These plans are designed to supplement health insurance with prescription, dental, and vision discounts. GoHealth Access members also have a personal health assistant. Some plans include video consultations with a doctor, critical illness insurance, and accident insurance.
Understanding the market rates, setting a reasonable budget, and using helpful websites like HealthCare.gov and other comparison websites will make the search for an affordable health insurance plan simple. On comparison websites, you can view health plans offered by multiple companies, which saves you the hassle of looking a different companies separately. These tools will help you find the plan that best fits your budget and health needs.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com.