CNN Money 101|
If you are young and healthy, saving on health-insurance premiums is tough
enough. Older people not in the best of health will have great difficulty
getting an affordable plan.
If you're buying your own insurance, you've got to shop around for the best price. As long as you're
healthy and under 50, insurers want your business. To avoid attracting
applicants they don't want, though, many keep a low profile, so you'll have to
seek them out by phoning agents, checking with your state insurance department
or going online. For instance, Quotesmith,
a nationwide insurance broker, has a national online database of carriers you
can search for policies that might be available to you.
Older people or those with health problems will have a tougher time finding
insurance. Government protections offer some help (see "Your
Legal Rights") but insurers are not always quick to advise you of your
options, so you may have to take the initiative to get the coverage you're
Make the most of spousal coverage. Working couples with insurance from
two employers may be able to get more or pay less than one-income couples. Depending
on the premiums and benefits of each available plan, the best deal may be
separate coverage for each, double coverage for both, or forgoing one spouse's
coverage in favor of the other's. If you have kids, you'll need to compare your
options for family coverage. Be warned: The calculations can be mind-boggling
and, even with double coverage, a couple can't collect more than 100% on the
Use available tax-breaks. If you're self-employed, you may be able to
deduct 45% of your insurance premium from your gross income. If your employer
offers a flexible spending account, sign up. You can pay your premium as well
as expenses not covered by insurance with money that's not subject to income
tax or Social Security taxes.
Take prudent risks. If you are generally healthy and use few medical
services, you can cut premium costs substantially by buying
"catastrophic" coverage. This is an indemnity policy with a very high
deductible, perhaps as much as $2,500. Assuming this much financial risk can
slash your premium by 50% or more, depending on your age. Don't try to trim
your premium by reducing coverage on the other end, though. Make sure your
insurance has a high maximum payout, at least $100,000, preferably $500,000.
Look for a subsidy. If your income is very low, if you're permanently
disabled or if your medical expenses are extremely high, you may qualify for
federal or state-subsidized insurance, such as Medicare or Medicaid (check your
state Medicaid office). Regardless of your ability to pay, you may be qualified
to receive free primary care through public health clinics. To find a site near
you, check Bureau
of Primary Healthcare web site.
If you lose your job or have health problems, federal and state laws give you
certain rights to health insurance, which are described in the next section.
Next: Your legal rights
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