If you’re considering buying health insurance, the first thing you should look at is if you’re already covered. Individual insurance plans tend to be more expensive, more complicated, and more restrictive than collective plans, so if you’re already covered, it’s better to know from the start. Starting in 2015 in the USA, any employer with over 50 employees must provide health care for their employees. Ask your human resources departments. These health care plans often cover spouses and dependents as well. Under some circumstances, you may even retain coverage from your past employer after being laid off.
Aside from businesses, there are other groups that provide collective insurance plans. Universities and colleges, for example, often have health insurance packages for their students, which you may have already paid for as part of your tuition fees. And collective insurance is also often available through other membership organizations, such as Chambers of Commerce.
Several government programs offer insurance as well. Medicaid is a government insrance program for individuals and families with low incomes. Medicare provides insurance to those over the age of 65. Some states offer collective insurance pools for their poorer citizens. The Kaiser Family Foundation has many resources on their website to find out if you qualify for these or other government programs.
If you are purchasing an individual plan, know that insurance generally falls into three categories. Traditional fee-for-service health insurance plans allow you the widest choice of healthcare providers and services, as you pay for each service you use, but the trade-off is that they tend to be among the most expensive. At the other end of the spectrum, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) are quite inexpensive and provide extensive coverage, but each plan allows you access to only a very limited set of healthcare providers. And somewhere in the middle are Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs), which slightly higher payments, but in exchange you get a list of healthcare providers to choose from. The providers on the HMO and PPO lists vary quite a bit in terms of quality, so do your research into specific providers and your variety of options should you want to reconsider at a later date.
There are other factors to consider as well. Traditionally, many Florida health insurance companies have denied coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and while this is increasingly being phased out, you may still struggle to qualify for some plans (or some plans may simply be prohibitively expensive) if you have health issues. Different plans also cover different sets of medical care. Eye care, dental care, medications, physical therapy, alternative medicines, psychiatry, nursing care, home care, and other specialized forms of care are not covered on all plans.
It may be a good idea to consult with an insurance broker as well, who can help you understand the fee structures, including co-payments and deductibles, as well as the variety of options and plans out there. Choose wisely, and ensure you have the best health care available when the time comes that you need it.