How to Get Cheap Car Insurance

How to Get Cheap Car Insurance

For many people, car insurance is a major expense category in the household budget. And because it’s against the law to drive without car insurance, it’s not a budget item that can be eliminated unless you’re willing to go car-free. That doesn’t mean, though, that you’re stuck paying sky-high rates. Here’s how to get cheap car insurance. 

Learn about personal loan rates. 

How Insurance Companies Set Car Insurance Rates

Like health insurance, car insurance comes with both premiums and deductibles. The premiums are what you pay the insurance company every month to maintain your coverage. The deductible is what you’ll pay when you start making claims, up to a certain annual cap of, say, $1,000.

It’s worth noting that most people who say they want cheap car insurance mean that they want car insurance with low monthly premiums. But, as with health insurance, there’s a risk to having a policy with low premiums and a high deductible. In the event of a serious accident, you’ll have to meet that deductible. So, one way to get lower premiums is to opt for a higher deductible, but this is only a safe strategy if you have enough liquidity to cover your deductible in the event of an accident.

When car insurance companies set insurance premium rates they take several factors into account. These include applicants’ age, gender and driving history, as well as the type of car the applicant drives and the driver’s state of residence. While you can’t change your age, there are other steps you can take to get favorable rates from car insurance companies.

Types of Coverage

How to Get Cheap Car Insurance

Insurance companies charge more for comprehensive car insurance than they do for basic coverage. In most states you’re required to have liability insurance to cover any damage you do to another car or driver. The extent of that coverage requirement varies by state. In most states, you’re not required to have insurance to cover damage to your own car, or injuries you might suffer in an accident.

If you choose to add insurance coverage for yourself, you can opt for comprehensive coverage or collision coverage. Collision coverage, as the name indicates, covers damage from an accident with another car or an object, and in the event that your car flips. Comprehensive coverage covers things like theft, vandalism and natural disasters, too.

So, while you’ll almost definitely need to buy liability coverage to cover other drivers’ damages, you might not need to buy physical damage coverage for your own vehicle. It will depend on the terms of your lease if you’re leasing a car, and on your own assessment of the risks you face.

If you’re buying a valuable new car, you’ll probably want comprehensive coverage. If you’re paying cash for an older, used vehicle, you can probably get away with a more basic level of coverage. Whatever insurance option you choose for yourself, be sure to comply with state laws relating to liability insurance for any damage you might do to another driver. Once you have a car insurance policy, carry proof of insurance with you in your vehicle at all times. 

How to Get Cheap Car Insurance Rates

How to Get Cheap Car Insurance

In the long term, one of the best ways to get cheap car insurance is to be a safe, responsible driver. The worst drivers have high rates because the insurance company needs financial compensation for the high likelihood that it will have to pay out in the event these drivers get in an accident. If you have a spotless driving record, keep it up. If you have some accidents or tickets in your past, they shouldn’t drive your rates up forever. If it’s been a few years since your last incident, you can try calling your insurance company and asking for a lower rate, using your recent, safe driving record as a bargaining chip.

Another way to get cheap car insurance is to use the same insurance company for more than one type of insurance and get a discount for your loyalty. For example, you can contact the insurance company that provides your homeowners insurance, life insurance or motorcycle insurance and ask if the company can give you a good deal on car insurance. If you have more than one car, you can bundle the insurance coverage on both vehicles.

Your credit score will also affect your car insurance rates, just like it affects the rates you’re offered when shopping for a mortgage. If your credit has improved since you last bought car insurance, you may be able to negotiate your way to cheaper car insurance. And if you pay your car insurance premiums and bills on time and in full, you’ll build up goodwill with your insurer and might qualify for promotional rates.

If you don’t drive very much during the year, you might get cheaper car insurance from a usage-based plan than you would from regular car insurance. Track your mileage before you start shopping for car insurance and see if your low mileage makes you eligible for a better deal.

If you’re under 25, you’ll pay higher premiums, all things being equal. That’s because insurance companies judge young drivers to be riskier drivers. You can get lower rates by joining your parents’ plan, or by using your good grades to get a discount on rates, if your insurance company offers that option. Once you reach your mid-20s there’s no reason to keep paying the high rates that insurance companies levy on young drivers. You can ask your insurance company to lower your rate, or shop around for insurance from another provider.

Finally, the type of car you drive can affect your car insurance rates. Big, powerful and flashy cars are more likely to trigger high car insurance rates because the insurance company assumes you’ll be more likely to speed in that kind of vehicle, and that the vehicle will be a target for theft. Vehicles with high repair costs (such as foreign-made cars) may be more expensive to cover, too. In some states, having a used car will mean lower rates because rates are affected by your car’s replacement value. But in other states, rates are based on vehicles’ safety features, so having an older car won’t necessarily help you get cheap car insurance. If your car has special safety and/or anti-theft features, you may qualify for cheaper car insurance on that basis.

Bottom Line

If you don’t have a vehicle or you’re thinking about getting a new (or used) car, it may be worth doing some research to find out which kinds of cars will get you the lowest car insurance rates. And if you’re paying a lot for car insurance now, you may be able to get cheaper coverage by negotiating your premiums or switching providers.

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How I fell in love in Seattle for $3 – MintLife Blog

If the dating scene is wearing out your wallet (and your liver) with $15 craft cocktails, you’re not alone. It’s a pretty expensive and unsustainable way to find a life partner. There’s a better way. It takes a bit of… Full Story

Source: mint.intuit.com

Move Like a Minimalist: How to Avoid New Nest Syndrome

Spring is a common time when people start buying new homes, or simply moving to new apartments across town. Moving by itself is an incredibly stressful time, and no one needs to add additional financial stress into the mix. Moving tends to be expensive, transporting things across town (or further) and getting everything settled can put a major dent in an established monthly budget. Once you get to your new place, it’s likely that the layout of the furniture won’t be the same, and you’ll need to figure out how to best fit everything in while very likely buying some new furniture to make everything work.

When you’re starting the moving process and getting settled into your new place, don’t let the expenses get out of control. Here are some tips to help prevent the new nest instinct from taking over and ruining your savings and budgeting progress.

1. Walk The New Space To See How Things Will Fit

Take some time to walk through your new home, make and record some measurements and roughly plan where things will go. Doing so will allow you to declutter the things that you either don’t need or simply won’t fit in the new space. There’s no sense moving something that you’ll just end up getting rid of shortly after. This preparation will allow you to save money by potentially renting a smaller, less expensive moving truck.

2. Wait To Buy New Things Until You’ve Lived There For A While

While it’s tempting to go to your favorite furniture store and buy everything you think you’ll need in your new home, I’d highly suggest waiting until you’ve lived there for a few weeks. Unless something is absolutely essential, you will benefit from waiting and seeing what things you actually need. This gives you the opportunity to find the small quirks and needs of that specific home and you won’t waste money buying things before you know you need them.

3. Take Your Time And Acquire Unique or Interesting Pieces

Just like number two, if you’re willing to wait a little bit and acquire things more slowly, you’re more able to find interesting and unique pieces of furniture to bring into your space. These pieces will add more character to your home, and really bring it to life. If you’re the DIY type, you can make some custom solutions that will perfectly fit the space you have. Even if it’s repurposing and upcycling an antique piece by painting or refinishing it, it’s guaranteed to be cheaper and likely more durable than something from a local superstore.

4. Remember That White Space Is Perfectly Fine

Especially if the space you’re moving into is bigger than your previous home, remember that you don’t need to fill up every corner of every room. It’s okay to leave big open spaces in your new living quarters, for a clean, uncluttered look. If you don’t feel the need to fill in all the space, you’ll save a ton of money on potential furniture and decorative purchases along the way. Focus on fewer, more meaningful purchases and you’re good to go.

5. Don’t Buy Everything Right Away

When visiting the homes of parents and other folks that have lived in their homes for a long time, it’s easy to feel like that level of furnishing is expected. Don’t go into debt immediately buying furniture for your new place! The reality is that most people have had years (sometimes decades) to furnish their home and have done it over a very long period of time. Relieve yourself of the pressure to have a perfectly decked out home and feel free to leave some rooms open, undecorated, or even unused if you want. It’s your space, and you get to choose exactly how you use it.

If you follow these tips, you’ll significantly cut the cost of moving into a new home whether it’s an apartment, a house, or anything in between. While you might feel pressure to get everything set up right away, take your time and make everything work to your advantage.

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What is Accidental Death Insurance, and do you Need it?

Accidental death insurance, also known as accidental death and dismemberment insurance, is a type of limited life insurance often acquired for a nominal fee or added to an existing policy. As the name suggests, it releases a benefit if the policyholder dies from an accident or suffers a dismemberment. 

Accidents kill an estimated 160,000 Americans a year and are far more common amongst men aged between 18 and 44. Many of these deaths occur as a result of falls and motor traffic accidents, both of which are covered by most accidental death insurance policies.

When You Don’t Need Accidental Death Insurance

If you already have life insurance, you can probably overlook accidental death insurance. In such cases, it will simply increase the value of the payout when you die, known as “double indemnity” coverage.

Unlike whole-life insurance policies, it does not provide policyholders with a separate investment vehicle that they can cash out at a later date. Generally, accidental death insurance doesn’t offer anything that a traditional life insurance policy can’t provide, and it may therefore be deemed an unnecessary expense.

However, there are exceptions.

When You Need Accidental Death Insurance

An accidental death benefit can’t provide you with anything that you won’t get from a traditional life insurance policy. However, it’s a different story with dismemberment insurance. This will cover you in the event that you lose a finger, toe or arm, which means you’ll have the money you need for medical costs and may be compensated for lost work.

Accidental death insurance can also help to cover any additional medical fees that result from necessary treatment taken after an accident and before death. Your family may be forced to cover these bills, and an additional death benefit can help them with that. 

Accidental death and dismemberment insurance is not something we would recommend in lieu of traditional life insurance, but if you have the option to add it to an existing policy for a few bucks a month, it’s well worth considering.

How Much Does Accidental Death Insurance Cost?

The price of your accidental death insurance premiums will depend on your payout as well as your risk factor. The average person can expect a charge of roughly $5 per month for every $50,000 of coverage, which means a benefit of $100,000 could cost as little as $10 a month.

But, as we have discussed many times before, underwriters focus on probabilities. The more likely you are to die from an accident, the higher those premiums will cost. For instance, if you’re an 18-year-old who has just started driving and enjoys a few high-risk hobbies, you may see those premiums climb.

How Long Does Accidental Death Insurance Last?

Accidental death insurance policies typically run for up to 40 years. You choose the desired term at the start and this is used to calculate your premiums, with longer terms leading to higher prices on account of the increased risk.

What is Not Covered by Accidental Death Insurance?

Accidental death insurance generally doesn’t cover all accidents and all dismemberments. The exact coverage will depend on the policy, and it’s possible to tailor your policy to include some of the things not traditionally included, but this may increase the premiums.

Suicide

Suicide is a tricky one. Many life insurance policies will payout if the policyholder commits suicide, but only if it occurs after the first two years and it is proved that they committed suicide so their loved ones would benefit (although this is not easy to prove).

However, accidental death insurance policies tend to rule suicide out altogether. Many deaths caused by misadventure may be queried as suicide, such as falls and drownings, but unless there is actual proof that they intended to take their life, the death will often be ruled as misadventure, in which case an accidental death insurance policy may payout.

War Injuries

Accidental death insurance rarely pays out for deaths resulting from war injuries. This is true whether the policyholder is shot or dies from an explosion or fall. That death was certainly not intentional, so you could argue that the policy should pay, but most insurers will refuse.

Illness and Disease

An accidental death insurance policy is not designed to payout in the event that you die from an illness or disease. Your beneficiaries may also face some resistance if you had a serious illness or disease at the time of your death but an accident was ultimately the thing that killed you.

For instance, if you have a serious mobility problem and this causes you to fall, hit your head, and die, then technically an accident killed you, but that accident wouldn’t have happened if not for the illness, creating some technicalities that will no doubt lead to problems when filing a claim.

Drugs or Alcohol

An accidental overdose is rarely covered by accidental death insurance. There will be no benefit for your loved ones if it leads to your demise, and no benefit for you if it leads to long-term health complications.

This is not true for all policies, however, and there may be exceptions for drugs that were prescribed.

How Can the Cause of Death be Proved?

As alluded to already, the cause of death isn’t straightforward. With a traditional life insurance policy, if the policyholder dies outside of the contestability period, the insurers will rarely get involved. That changes if they have suspicions about the death and believe that a crime was committed (fraud, murder) but it’s rare.

With accidental death insurance, however, there are many more nuances. As a result, an official investigation may be ordered, and this can include an autopsy.

How Does the Dismemberment Payout Work?

If the policyholder losses an appendage as a result of an accident, they may receive a partial benefit paid direct to them. The policy will dictate how much is paid and why, but generally the payout will be made following a non-excluded accident that results in the loss of:

  • An arm
  • A leg
  • A finger
  • A toe
  • Sight

Higher payouts may also be provided if the policyholder suffers complete paralysis.

What is Accidental Death Insurance, and do you Need it? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What is A.M. Best Ratings and Why Should You Care?

When you are selecting an insurance company, it is important that you are aware of the insurer’s financial strength. Luckily, there are financial rating companies that do the hard work for you. One of these companies is A.M. 

Depending on the rating, you’ll be able to determine which insurance company is best for you.

It should be noted, A.M. Best is not the only rating company. There are several others, like the Fitch rating and Standard and Poors. 

A.M. Best Ratings AT A GLANCE

Year Founded

1899

Size

Largest credit rating agency in the world specializing in the insurance industry

HQ Address

Ambest Road

Oldwick, NJ 08858

United States

Phone Number

800-544-2378 

A.M. Best Company Information

So, what makes this one rating company special? They aren’t the only rating company out there, but they are the most notable and most widely used.

To quote A.M. Best, their rating system “. . . is an independent opinion of an insurer’s financial strength and ability to meet its ongoing insurance policy and contractual obligations. It is based on a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative evaluation of a company’s balance sheet, strength, operating performance and business profile.”

Aside from giving the companies a letter grade on their scale, the rating company also includes an outlook projection. They give them an outlook of either positive, negative, or stable. While these are just guesses, with A.M. Best they have research and previous information to base their outlooks on.

A.M. Best provides a way for each company to see just where they rank with consumers and helps them know just what they have to do to correct their mistakes.
Finding out what is A.M. Best ratings for insurance companies is the first step towards getting a secure policy for you and your family.

How Does A.M. Best Insurance Ratings Scale Work?

For a professional company, using a basic method of grading insurance companies has proven to be an effective and helpful tactic. Here’s how the A.M. Best Insurance rating scale works:

  • A++, A+, A, and A- all identify the top insurance companies. Receiving an A for the company shows how financially strong they are, how capable a company is of guaranteeing your policy and keeping it secure.
  • B++, B+, B, and B- ratings rank companies as good for those who can’t afford what higher ranked companies offer their services for. With a B ranking, you can depend on the company to provide a secure policy for affordable rates and rely on them to help your family get the help they need once you’re gone. For client’s knowing that your family has something to fall back on during difficult times is a welcome relief.
  • C++ and C+ are the only two scores for the C category, indicating an average insurance company. No bells or whistles attached, just a straightforward policy with straightforward premiums, a great choice for the first time you buy life insurance.
  • A ‘D’ rank is only reserved for companies that fall below A.M. Best’s minimum standards, an E rank means the company is under state supervision, and an F rank is only for companies going into liquidation. Any rating below a C shows how unreliable the company within the industry.

It’s obviously important to understand the rating scale of the insurance company before buying your life insurance.

A.M. Best Ratings For Insurance Companies

Now you have an understanding of what is A.M. Best ratings and how they work. A visit to the A.M. Best website is the perfect choice when looking for an insurance company. A company’s ranking shows just how dependable they are and if you’re getting all the benefits you should be for what you’ll pay in premiums. “What is A.M. Best ratings” is a question best asked when beginning to search for a policy, a question that can make your search easier and simpler than you originally thought.

Why A.M. Best Matters

Sure, it’s nice to find a company with an A+ rating, but does it matter? How does it impact you or your life insurance policy?

These ratings are a good indicator of how much you can trust your insurance company. If a company doesn’t have good financial strength, there is always a chance that the company could go bankrupt and your policy wouldn’t be paid out, which is a terrible turn of events.

There is no way to predict the future or what could happen to a company, but rating systems give us more direction that completely guessing. The A.M. Best ratings give you an idea of the past and stability of a company without you having to do the research yourself.

Unless you’re really connected with the insurance industry, you probably don’t know which insurance companies have been around the longest or which ones have experienced financial problems in the past.

Because life insurance is such an important purchase, it’s vital that the company that you choose is going to be around for hundreds of years to come. Life insurance gives you and your loved ones the peace of mind and financial coverage that they need in case something tragic were to happen.

How do A.M. Best Ratings Compare?

How does A.M. Best compare to other popular rating companies? A.M. Best is not the only company on the market that rates insurance. A few other popular options are Fitch and Standard and Poors.

Below we compared A.M. Best, Fitch and Standard and Poors. In this table, it is important to note that though the ratings may appear in the same row, it does not mean they are equal to each other. For example, Fitch’s AA rating may differ from Standard and Poors. 

Ratings of Insurers’ Financial Strength

A.M. Best Fitch Standard and Poors
A++, A+ AAA AAA
Superior ability to meet ongoing obligations Exceptionally strong capacity to pay financial commitments Extremely strong financial security characteristics. Highest S&P rating
Not Applicable AA AA
Companies rated A+ are one “notch” lower than those rated A++ Very strong capacity to pay financial commitments Very strong financial security characteristics
A, A- A A
Very strong capacity to meet financial commitments Strong capacity to pay financial commitment Strong financial security characteristics
B++, B+ BBB BBB
Good ability to meet financial obligations Adequate capacity to pay financial commitments Good financial security characteristics
B, B- BB BB
Fair ability to meet financial commitments Elevated vulnerability to default risk but has flexibility to service financial commitments Marginal financial security characteristics
C++, C+ B B
Marginal ability to meet their ongoing insurance obligations. Significant risk of default with limited margin of safety Weak financial security characteristics

History of A.M. Best

Alfred Best founded A.M. Best Company in 1899. A.M. Best is one of the oldest and most established rating companies in the world. They were established with the goal of reporting the financial stability of insurance companies. They currently have ratings for companies that are in more than 80 different countries across the world.

Bottom Line

When you start looking for a life insurance policy (or any other kind of insurance policy), it’s important that you look at the company’s A.M. Best rating. While their rating shouldn’t be the determining factor in your decision, it’s important to know that you’re buying a policy from a reputable company.

A faulty insurance company shouldn’t keep you from getting the coverage that you and your loved ones deserve. Don’t be one of the countless stories of a family that suffers the loss of a family member, and then learns that they have thousands of dollars of debt and no way to pay for it.

The post What is A.M. Best Ratings and Why Should You Care? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

A Quick Guide to the Difference Between Medicaid & Medicare

Medicare and Medicaid may sound alike, but the health insurance programs are wildly different. Here's a quick primer.

Medicare and Medicaid may sound alike, but these government health insurance programs are dramatically different from one another. Here’s a brief overview.

What Is Medicare?

Administered by the federal government, Medicare is a health insurance program primarily for adults who are 65 years of age or older and have paid into the Social Security system for at least 40 quarters (about 10 years). An individual who lacks the necessary work credits can also benefit from the program through their spouse, as can individuals who are younger than 65 but have received Social Security Disability Insurance payments for at least two years.

What Medicare Covers

There are different parts to Medicare that make it a veritable “alphabet soup.” For example, Medicare Part A covers mostly in-patient hospital care and provides a minimal benefit for skilled nursing care and hospice care. Medicare Part B covers the costs of outpatient care, such as doctors’ visits, lab tests and preventative care. Medicare Part C is the Medicare Advantage program and an alternative to Medicare parts A and B.

Like most types of insurance, Medicare parts A, B and C include co-pays and deductibles. Generally, the amount of income you earn and the amount of assets you own are irrelevant for participation, so paupers, billionaires and everyone in between can be eligible.

Surprisingly, given that Medicare is primarily a program for individuals 65 and older, the program covers just a small portion of the cost of a nursing home stay. At most, it fully covers the costs associated with the initial 20 days of a stay and provides only partial coverage for the next 80 days. In addition, for a stay to be covered, a patient must meet certain requirements.

For example, the patient must have been hospitalized for at least three consecutive days directly prior to receiving care at a nursing home and that care must be considered medically necessary. Because of these requirements, patients or their families are often forced to pay out of pocket for nursing home care or seek relief from Medicaid.

What Is Medicaid?

Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California) is a federal-state program. It primarily acts as a safety net for those who can’t pay for healthcare.

Seniors can participate in Medicaid if they pass three tests: a medical necessity test, an asset test and an income test.

The medical necessity test requires that skilled nursing care is necessary to address the patient’s medical needs. The asset test places strict limits on how much property a patient and the patient’s spouse can own while benefiting from Medicaid. The income test limits how much individuals and couples may earn to be eligible for Medicaid.

There are ways to get around these eligibility tests if you or a loved one can’t pass them but want Medicaid to help pay for the cost of a nursing home stay. However, doing so may require the help of an attorney who practices elder law. A relatively new kind of law, elder law can help individuals preserve their assets and qualify for Medicaid. (Disclosure: The Wiewel Law firm, in Austin, Texas, specializes in estate planning.)

Remember, Medicaid planning is a complicated process and even a small error can mean the program will refuse to help pay for the cost of a nursing home stay. Be sure to speak with an expert if you have concerns.

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The Basics of Medicare Eligibility

How does Medicare eligibility work?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program widely used by U.S. citizens and permanent residents age 65 and older. The program also applies to those younger than age 65 who have disabilities, end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or other diseases. But Medicare has multiple parts, and the eligibility requirements vary for each. 

Who Is Eligible for Medicare?

U.S. citizens or permanent residents who’ve lived in the U.S. for more than five years qualify for Medicare if they’re age 65 or older. Those younger than age 65 also qualify for Medicare if they disabilities or life-threatening diseases.

Medicare Eligibility for People Over 65

If you’re age 65 or older, you can get Part A coverage without paying premiums, as long as you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In order to skip the premium payments, though, one of the following must apply to you:

  • You are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board retirement benefits
  • You are eligible to receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits but have not collected them
  • You or your spouse had a Medicare-covered government job

Being eligible for Part A coverage also guarantees your eligibility for Part B Medicare coverage. The only difference is that you’ll have to purchase Part B coverage. However, if you’re receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits at least four months prior to turning 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Part B.

Medicare Eligibility for People Under 65

If you’re under age 65, you can enroll in Medicare if you:

  • Have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) checks for at least 24 months
  • Have been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD)
  • Have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Have permanent kidney failure which requires dialysis or a transplant

You’ll automatically receive Part A and Part B coverage if you’ve either gotten disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months, or if you’ve received certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months, according to medicare.gov.

Medicare Eligibility for Part C and Part D

Medicare Part C is a Medicare health plan that’s typically offered by private insurance companies. Also known as Medicare Advantage, you’re eligible for Part C if you’re enrolled in Part A and Part B, you don’t have ESRD and the option is available in your area. These plans include health maintenance organizations, preferred provider organizations, special needs plans, private fee-for-service plans and Medicare medical savings account plans.

Offered by private insurance companies, Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage. You’ll need to be enrolled in Part A or Part B to be eligible. You won’t be eligible, however, if you’re enrolled in Part C coverage.

Bottom Line

Eligibility requirements for Medicare vary based on a number of different factors such as age and medical history and condition. This is why it’s crucial to do your research so you can determine which parts of Medicare best align with your retirement savings goals.

Retirement Planning Tips

  • Not sure you’re saving enough for retirement? Our retirement calculator can help you determine your estimated Social Security benefits, how much money you need to retire and how much annual income you’ll need in retirement.
  • A financial advisor can offer advice on any of your Social Security, Medicare or retirement savings needs. SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching tool connects you with up to three local advisors.

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Questions to Ask When Shopping for Health Insurance

Whether you are acquiring it through your employer or on your own, shopping for health insurance coverage is a task that many adults will be faced with at some point. Health coverage is not a one-size-fits all amenity, and it comes in many forms such as Point of Service (POS), Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) and more. 

Buying health insurance is a big commitment, so do the research and look over all your options before making any hasty decisions. Technical information about different health insurance policies can be overwhelming, which is why seeking the help of a licensed insurance agent or a health insurance broker might be your best bet. In the following sections we will discuss ways you can prepare to meet with a health insurance agent as well as what questions to ask. 

How to prepare to meet with a health insurance agent 

Health insurance exists to protect us financially when we get sick or injured, which is why it’s so important for you to look at plans that fit the unique needs of you and your family. Whether you are an employer shopping for insurance plans for your employees, or just an individual browsing your options, choosing a caring agent who takes their job seriously is key to finding the right plan. To start, you will want to work with an insurance agent who is experienced, knowledgeable and trustworthy.

Finding the right agent to work with isn’t the only important piece of the puzzle, you’ll also want to do your part as well. Coming prepared to the appointment will help things run more smoothly and will ensure that you to ask the right questions. 

Before meeting with the insurance agent, make sure that you:

  • Know how much you are willing to pay: Before your appointment with an insurance agency, you should consider how much risk you want to assume for yourself versus how much risk you want the insurance company to assume for you. In other words, would you rather make higher monthly insurance payments and have a lower deductible or would you rather pay a lower monthly insurance payment and have a higher deductible? If you’re okay with paying a hefty deductible during a medical crisis, then you might consider choosing a plan with a lower monthly payment. On the other hand, someone who needs more consistent medical care might opt for a plan with a lower deductible. 
  • Research the insurance agency that you will be doing business with: Ask friends and loved ones for feedback on the agencies they’ve worked with and find out how their experience was. If you are an employer, do some research to see what agencies other companies do business with. The important thing is that you choose an agency that you trust. 
  • Know what to bring with you: In order for the agent to help you the best they can, they will need to know as much information as possible about yours and your family’s medical history. The agent will want to know about any of yours or your family’s medical conditions and personal habits such as drinking, smoking, diet, etc. Call in advance and find out exactly what you need to bring. Be truthful and thorough so that your agent can find the best health insurance policy for you. 
  • Make a list of the questions that you will want to ask: It’s easy to get overwhelmed during these appointments. Writing down your questions will not only help you to be more organized, but it will also lower your chances of forgetting to bring up important topics.  

Questions to ask your health insurance agents

Before meeting with a licensed insurance agent, you should write down a list of questions that you want to have answered during your appointment. Here are some questions you should be asking your agent about your insurance before buying:

    • How much will it cost? This is probably the most dreaded part of the conversation, but it has to be discussed! The overall cost of your health insurance policy will depend on your premium, deductible and out-of-pocket-max. When browsing through plans, you’ll want to take notes on how much these three items will cost up front, because each plan varies in rates.
      • Premium: Health insurance premiums are rates that you will pay every month in order to secure your coverage. The initial payment you receive will be a premium, and will continue monthly. 
      • Deductible: If your plan has a deductible of $2,000, then that means you will be responsible for paying the first $2,000 of health care before your plan begins covering certain costs. Once you pay your deductible, you’ll pay significantly less for your health care. 
  • Out-of-pocket max: This is basically the maximum amount of money that you will ever have to be responsible for paying while covered—as long as you stay in-network, that is. Let’s say your out-of-pocket max is $5,000, but you end up needing surgery that costs $30,000. You would only have to worry about paying $5,000. Additionally, if you’ve already reached your $2,000 deductible, then you would only have to pay $3,000. The purpose of an out-of-pocket max is to protect you from having to pay extremely expensive bills, but remember—the surgery would need to happen at a medical facility that is in-network.  
  • Is my current doctor covered? If you’re already receiving health care, you’ll want to know if your current doctor is a part of any prospective insurance company’s network of health providers. This information should be fairly simple to find out but could be an important factor in your decision. If you are currently taking any medications, you’ll also want to ask your agent to check the formulary to see if your prescriptions are covered.
  • Who do I contact when I have questions? It’s important to find out if your prospective health insurance company has a customer service team you can call or message when you need to inquire about bills, claims, copays or anything else insurance-related. Does the company have a separate phone number to call when you want help finding a health care provider? Is this customer service line automated or will you be speaking to an actual insurance representative? These questions are important to determine what kind of support is available long after you’ve signed a contract. 

What happens during an emergency? When going to see a doctor for a normal visit, you have time to plan and make sure that the doctor is in-network. However, during an emergency, we may not have the same luxury. It’s possible that in a case where you need dire medical attention, the closest health care provider may not be in-network. You should ask about your prospective company’s policy on emergencies and what the standard routine consists of.

Questions to Ask When Shopping for Health Insurance is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com