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Individual Health Insurance
Understanding "Real" Major Medical Plans
Personal health insurance—referred to as "major medical" is not "cheap," but a savvy, well informed shopper can find coverage that is reasonably priced and dependable. A quick study of three major issues will help you determine if a particular type of coverage is right for you. They are (1) your own health and coverage needs; (2) types of coverage available; (3) recognizing reputable companies.

individual health insurance plansAnalyze your own needs
Freedom to choose your own lifestyle is one of the plusses of living in America. However, your lifestyle, physical fitness, and health history will play an important part in not only your health insurance premium but also in the level of coverage you can purchase. For example, those who do not smoke and who maintain a healthy weight will get lower premiums. In fact, simply being able to report an active lifestyle can lower your premium. Also, if you take a lot of prescription drugs, talk to your doctor—or consider visiting a naturopathic doctor who is educated in supplements and nutrition and can direct you in ways of eliminating prescription medicines. Prescriptions scream "chronic condition" to an insurance company. Vitamins and supplements, which most doctors are not prepared to talk about, however, are not regarded as underwriting factors in health insurance even if taken continuously and for a single cause.

You may find yourself needing insurance without having had much warning. In that case, you might have to take an insurance with a higher premium, but you can get begin a healthier lifestyle, and once needed changes have been accomplished, you will be able to change to another company and possibly lower the premium.

Types of Coverage
The coverage most people look for is "major medical." It is traditional coverage that pays for office visits—with either coinsurance or a copayment from you—as well as hospital care, emergency room and outpatient services, and may even include some vision and dental coverage. It is also the most expensive, although the cost can be reduced if you take a higher deductible. Healthier people today often take a deductible high enough to qualify for a Health Savings Account (HSA). The HSA is a special type of IRA account that you set up at your local bank. Money is deposited (according to government limits) "before taxes," allowing you to lower your reportable income, and then is withdrawn tax free to pay applicable health-care related expenses.

Other forms of coverage are the HMO, which requires you to seek care from within a network of caregivers; the PPO, which still involves a network but does not require the recommendation of the "primary care" physician in order to visit another doctor; and catastrophic coverage which only pays for a major illness which requires hospitalization. Catastrophic coverage will have a higher deductible and will usually not pay for office visits, maintenance prescriptions, or vision or dental care.

Using Dependable, Established Companies
Hundreds of organizations that promise some sort of health insurance exist in today's marketplace. However, the worst thing that can happen—other than the illness itself—is to submit health insurance claims, only to find out that the company doesn't pay the way you thought it would, or that it is no longer in business, or is just a discount plan that pays "per illness" according to a limited schedule. The number one cause of bankruptcy in America, especially among seniors, is catastrophic health care costs that an individual is unable to pay. Lawsuits involving health insurance policies generally do not solve the problem as such companies know how to word the policy so that they actually cover far less than you expected. Regardless of the type of insurance you want, the first step in choosing a company is to see what is available with the companies that have an established track record. Then, talk to a health insurance agent who can explain the policy fully and who is willing to deliver the policy and take time to go over the various clauses.

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