Five Health Insurance Tips for the Unemployed


With some of America’s biggest firms lopping off jobs at a quickening pace, an increasing number of people are finding themselves without health insurance. In recent days, General Motors Corp. (Stock Quote: GM) and Walmart (Stock Quote: WMT) are just some of the companies announcing huge staffing cuts. If you suddenly find yourself out of work, and not sure what to do about health insurance, here are five tips to help your search:

1. Shop around: Health insurance is a competitive industry so it pays to shop around to see what companies are offering the best rates. You can start your search by checking out’s Health Insurance Rates. There you'll find quotes from a variety of benefit-providers in your area, such as Aetna (Stock Quote: AET) and Humana (Stock Quote: HUM), just by entering your ZIP code and answering a few questions.

2. Go beyond COBRA: COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, lets you continue on your ex-employer's group health coverage, but that policy can be more expensive than getting individual coverage. "Most employees don't realize that the premium they pay for their employer's plan only covers a small portion of the true costs," says Robert Zirkelbach, director of strategic communications at America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a national association representing health-insurance providers. "In fact, individual coverage is more affordable than many people believe."

3. Look at your budget: Health insurance premiums can range from a couple of hundred dollars to more than $1,000 a month. Figure out what you can afford in terms of a monthly premium, and be sure to budget for co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses for such things as tests and treatments that may not be covered. Nationwide, annual premiums averaged $2,613 for individuals and $5,799 for families, according to a survey released in December 2007 by AHIP.

4. Identify your needs: Different policies offer varying benefits, cost-sharing structures and access to physicians. Will the plan let you see your current doctor? Does the plan provide easy access to the specialists you need? Does the plan cover the prescription drugs you currently require? Does the fee structure fit into how frequently you need to see a doctor? By answering these questions ahead of time, you can make sure any plan you choose covers only the services that you need, in order to avoid paying more than is necessary.

5. Change your deductible: If you've identified the type of plan that fits your needs but the premium is still more than you can afford, consider boosting the deductible on your policy. A higher deductible means more out-of-pocket expenses for some services, but lower monthly premiums.


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