The old saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” is incredibly true when it comes to health insurance plans, especially if you’ve always received coverage from your parents or employer.

However, if you recently started a new job that doesn’t offer benefits, began working for yourself, or you’re taking time off between work, you may find yourself in need of your own health insurance plan.

And while anyone who’s been in this boat knows navigating the sea of premiums and plans isn’t easy, taking the time to familiarise yourself with your options can simplify the whole process. So before you jump in, here are five tips to make finding the best health insurance plan easy.

Estimate your Healthcare Costs

Before choosing any health insurance plan, arm yourself with knowledge about your typical healthcare costs. If you were previously insured, you should be able to obtain a list of your medical expenses through your insurance company’s website.

Take a close look at last year’s out-of-pocket expenses and consider whether you expect these costs to rise. Were you recently married? Are you planning to start a family? Do you expect to need extra medication? If you expect high expenses consider a silver policy, if not, a bronze policy may be more appropriate.

Take a Close Look at your Deductible

Did you reach your deductible last year? Your deductible is the amount you must pay in medical expenses before the insurance company covers their share.

Generally, you will always pay higher premiums for a lower deductible. If you didn’t come close to reaching your deductible last year and don’t foresee any additional expenses, you should opt for a plan with a higher deductible to save on your premiums. On the other hand, if you quickly hit your deductible, choosing to pay higher premiums in exchange for a lower deductible is a smart option. This means you’ll receive coverage sooner and only pay fixed co-pays or co-insurance earlier in the year.

Communicate with your Doctor

Don’t lock in a health insurance plan without first speaking with your doctor. Insurance companies have a network of doctors and hospitals that they negotiate discounted rates with. To receive coverage under their policies, you must see one of the insurance companies “in-network” doctors.

If you see a doctor outside of your insurance company’s network, you’ll have to pay the doctors regular rates, which are typically twice as expensive.

Take advantage of Professional Associations and Tax Cuts

Do you belong to a professional association? If you’re a member of alumni, guild or a union, you may find that you can purchase insurance through them. It’s worth checking whether the organization provides discounted coverage through a group policy.

You may also be eligible for premium tax credits, which can make individual health insurance plans much more affordable depending on your annual earnings. Currently, 85% of Americans with an independent policy found through the marketplace are receiving an average monthly tax credit of $272.

Review different Policies and Providers

Not all health insurance companies are created equal, and neither are their plans. Be sure to shop around, both online and in-person, and check the insurance company’s track record by reading customer reviews and researching their ratings on an independent site like A.M. Best or Fitch Ratings.

And always compare different types of plans. Health insurance companies typically structure plans in four different ways to meet the varying needs of consumers. For instance, PPO plans offer flexibility by covering both in and out of network providers, while HMO plans assign you to a primary care provider who is then responsible for any healthcare or referrals.

Bottomline

Picking a health insurance plan on your own isn’t easy, but by doing your groundwork to equip yourself with knowledge, you will be well on your way to finding a plan that suits your health and your budget.

If you need further assistance finding a health insurance plan, Your Insurance Gal is happy to help.