There are many types of health insurance plans -- each with pros and cons.
Although there are low cost health insurance options available through employers, the government and insurance companies, a report published on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website estimates the number of uninsured Americans at a staggering 43.6 million. Many uninsured individuals do not have coverage through an employer, cannot afford the insurance premiums, are unemployed or switched jobs and cannot immediately enroll in a new employer's health plan. By remaining uninsured, these people are putting their health and financial well-being at risk. Every attempt should be made to find an affordable option that provides adequate coverage.
According to March 2008 statistics published by the U.S. Department of Labor, 74 percent of U.S. civilian workers had access to medical care benefits through their employer. According to the same study, employers paid 83 percent of the cost for the employee and 71 percent for family coverage. Because employers are usually paying well above half of the premium cost, enrolling in an employer-sponsored plan usually provides better coverage for the cost than if the employee purchased health insurance elsewhere.
Many employers offer more than one medical plan so that employees can select an affordable option that is appropriate for their medical needs. Indemnity plans give the insured the flexibility of choosing any doctor or hospital. Managed care plans provide lower costs for treatment from in-network doctors and hospitals. More than half of Americans are enrolled in one of the three types of managed care plans:
Families that do not have access to medical benefits through an employer or cannot afford to enroll in an employer's plan may be able to get affordable medical coverage for their children through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to Insure Kids Now, children can receive coverage for doctor visits, prescription medication and other medical care at little or no cost. Although eligibility requirements vary by state, generally, children who are under age 19 qualify if the family's income doesn't exceed the specified limit (approximately $34,000 for a family of four). The SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program), started in 1997, is operated jointly by the federal government and individual state governments and distributes benefits through capped funds to states.
Those who are laid off or temporarily unemployed can get short-term insurance coverage from various insurance companies, but these policies may have limitations for pre-existing conditions and may not cover all health aspects that were covered under the employer's insurance. These short-term policies are also a good option for those who have graduated from a university and have not yet found a job.
Another choice for low cost health insurance is a major medical plan that only provides coverage for a major injury or illness. Major medical plans are structured with a high deductible, which is the amount the policyholder must pay out of pocket before an insurance policy starts to pay for medical bills, and a lower monthly premium. A major medical plan pays larger expenditures like surgery; however, policyholders pay out of pocket for incidental medical bills, such as doctor visits and preventative care.
It's important to carefully read the detailed plan description for an insurance policy; otherwise, policyholders risk finding out they do not have coverage when they need it most. The following are the most important points to review:
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) cautions against waiting until someone is seriously ill before trying to obtain health insurance. Their website is a resource to help the uninsured along the path to finding affordable health care for themselves and their families.