Health insurance is a contract between policy-holders and their providers that helps shield the insured party from the rising costs of health care. Health insurance policies are formulated to offset the cost of health care for individuals and their families in lieu of medical benefits. Each policy highlights such benefits, along with coverage limits, premiums, the deductible, the co-pay for various services, and any services that are not covered by the policy. Health insurance is vital for allaying medical debt during both routine visits to the doctor and in medical emergencies. With adequate health insurance, you can be assured that you will be able to afford the medical care you and your family need.

Who Needs Health Insurance?

Health insurance is typically offered as part of an employee benefit package, but contracted, part-time workers, or employees working in positions without built-in benefits should obtain health insurance on their own. Both individuals and families need reliable health insurance to cover the cost of preventive care, routine doctor’s office visits, and unexpected health care needs, such as an emergency surgery, a broken bone, or a serious illness requiring a lengthy hospital stay. Those who are ineligible for public programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, or military/veteran coverage should purchase private health insurance to offset the cost of their current and future health care needs. You should also enlist in health insurance in the interim between jobs to avoid a gap in coverage.

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What Does Health Insurance Protect Against?

Health insurance generally covers the cost of doctor’s visits and hospital bills after the policy-holder has met a specified deductible. While some doctor’s visits, medication, and procedures may require a co-pay, insured individuals typically only pay a fraction of the out-of-pocket cost. For instance, cancer and other terminal illnesses can accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment costs. Health insurance relieves some of the financial strain of medical expenses, ensuring you can get the treatment you need without falling into debt. Many insurance policies also cover preventive care, prenatal/maternity care, diagnostic tests, and a variety of common medical procedures. Policies may be tailored to include coverage for dental care, mental health care, and prescription drug coverage.

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Where Can I Find the Best Price on Health Insurance?

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the cost of health insurance directly correlates with the sum of medical benefits desired. Those who elect for additional coverage by way of mental health care, dental care, and prescription drugs will pay more than those who purchase a standard health insurance policy. Until federal health insurance laws kick in around 2014, your age, sex, and current overall health will also play a role in how much you pay, as insurance companies deem certain individuals as being higher-risk investments. Other factors affecting the cost of your health insurance include medical history, credit score, and credit history.

The most effective way to find the best price on health insurance is to compare the cost of identical levels of coverage at different insurance companies. InsuranceQuotes makes comparing multiple insurance companies simple, such that the consumer doesn’t have to waste time calling up individual agents. CNN Money points out that finding the plan with the lowest premium doesn’t always equate to the cheapest plan. Customers should consider which benefits they truly need to weigh the value of a policy. For example, an active, healthy individual should consider a low-cost catastrophic indemnity policy with a high deductible given that they will likely seldom require medical attention. With a higher deductible, their premiums will be lower. Likewise, group insurance is often cheaper than individual insurance, so joining your employer’s plan may be the most affordable option.

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When Should I Purchase Health Insurance?

Uninsured persons should immediately seek a health insurance policy, as they are exposing themselves to a great deal of financial risk. For families on a budget, even a minimal plan with few benefits is better than no plan at all. In most cases, individuals may obtain health insurance through their employer, which will extend to other members of the household through a group plan. Those in career transitions should look into individual insurance or COBRA for the duration of their job search.

Younger individuals who have long depended on their parents for health insurance should keep track of how long they can remain insured in this way. In 2010, a federal law was passed that requires health insurance plans to allow young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. After this point, young adults will be responsible for their own health insurance coverage.

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