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Insurance Woes
October 26, 2005 4:38 PM   Subscribe

Insurancefilter What is the cheapest / most effective way to approach getting health / dental insurance on your own?

Let me start by saying that I am a 25 year old male and dont know much about health insurance. Every job I have had since I left my parents coverage has had only one health insurance option, so I always went with that. I recently quit my job and lost my insurance benefits all together. I am working a new job for around 9 months that does not provide health insurance, and I dont know where to look to start finding coverage on my own. What would be the most effective / cheapest way to get this short term coverage on my own?
posted by outsider to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
 
Check with a local HMO, i.e. Kaiser Permanente, or call an insurance agent that specailizes in health insurance.
posted by SpecialK at 4:50 PM on October 26, 2005


If you are near a university with a medical/dental school, see what it takes to get an appointment there. I know many people (here in Seattle) who were quite happy with their (nearly free) dental work done at the UW dental school. All work is pretty tightly supervised, and if you only need a teeth cleaning, it may not cost you much.
Health insurance might be affordable if you go with a "high deductible" policy - this means your out of pocket is high for things like checkups, but if you're covered for catastrophic things like accidents.
Good on you for actually looking into this, instead of just depending on the emergency room!
posted by dbmcd at 4:56 PM on October 26, 2005


Seems to me that uninsured people are always getting screwed. Why isn't there a way for all the unisured people to get together under a group plan?
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:11 PM on October 26, 2005


I have an individual plan from Blue Cross. It's a lot cheaper than my COBRA used to be, but doesn't offer great coverage. I have it so if I crash my motorcycle, my loss is limited, rather than because I want regular doctor visits and prescription medication covered.
posted by aneel at 5:38 PM on October 26, 2005


Seems to me that uninsured people are always getting screwed. Why isn't there a way for all the uninsured people to get together under a group plan?

Because on average, healthy people wouldn't sign up for such a plan, but sick people would, making the plan prohibitively expensive.
posted by reverendX at 5:42 PM on October 26, 2005


Become a student; many schools offer optional coverage to their part-time students, so you'd only need to take a class a semester.

...this is how I got affordable coverage, although that wasn't my main purpose. It has, however, turned out to be *quite* the side benefit!
posted by aramaic at 6:27 PM on October 26, 2005


Join a professional group or fraternal organization; they often offer insurance at group rates.

See, e.g., the National Association for the Self Employed, or, in the New York City area, the Freelancers' Union.

There are many, many others.
posted by enrevanche at 7:08 PM on October 26, 2005


Seconding enrevanche's comment. Are there any professional organizations you could become a member of? They often offer health insurance.

I recently quit my job and lost my insurance benefits all together.

You might (should?) be able to continue your old coverage by paying more for it. It's called "COBRA" and I did it several times in the 90s when I was a contract worker (working for a few months, then not, repeat). Back then the COBRA option only lasted for 18 months after your termination date but I don't know if that's still true.

["COBRA" is unfortunately an acronym for the bureacratic title given to the original catchall federal legislation that included the health insurance thing; what it stands for is completely maningless so just call it COBRA ...]
posted by intermod at 7:50 PM on October 26, 2005


I think that a lot of health insurance advice will depend on the state you live in. I get pretty good coverage pretty cheaply through BCBS, but were I still living in New York, I'd be paying twice as much.
When I was shopping for health insurance, BCBS allowed me to submit a pre-application so that i could get a rate quote without actually getting rejected by them, which looks bad if you apply elsewhere. I don't know if this is allowed in all states, but it might be a good thing to ask an insurance broker.
If I were you, I'd ask friends, co-workers and family about their insurance brokers. Or, as enrevanche suggested, join an organization that can help you out. My local food co-op offers group rate health insurance, which I am considering taking when my current policy is up for renewal.
posted by Sara Anne at 10:36 PM on October 26, 2005


enrevanche's suggestion is good. Individual insurance can be hit-or-miss depending on what state you live in. Some states are guaranteed issue states meaning that the state insurance laws require insurers to offer some level of medical insurance to individuals. In 2002 (according to a GAO study), there were ten states with guaranteed issue provisions:

Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Vermont, and West Virginia.

If you live in one of those states, go to the website of the state division of insurance and there should be a list of insurers offering individual health insurance in that market. If you're not in one of those states, you can still get individual insurance, but it will most likely require you to fill out a detailed health questionnaire and there will be a possibility that any health conditions you have will not be covered by the insurer (or they may just jack up the rate, etc.).

As for dental insurance, don't bother. Individual dental insurance is expensive and usually limits what is covered in the first six months to a year (i.e., no major services -- crowns, bridges, often perio or endodontic work). If you do the math, you'll discover that during that first year of paying for individual insurance you could have saved money by just paying for your own preventive dental care. Most dental work can be put off, so I'd just wait until you are fully covered under a group plan before having any major work done.
posted by MarkAnd at 6:21 AM on October 27, 2005


Ditto SpecialK... call or check the websites of local insurance companies (ie United Healthcare, Kaiser, BlueCross BlueShield, etc.). They typically offer short-term or long-term individual plans. You should also check with the last insurance company you had if you were happy with them, etc.

You can also call a local insurance broker (look in yellow pages under "Insurance").

Most plans offer a variety of premiums (what you pay per month), co-pay (what you pay to see a doctor), and deductibles (what you must pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in) so shop around. If you are 25, male, non-smoker, healthy weight, and only covering yourself you can probably get a pretty good deal.
posted by peppermint22 at 7:14 AM on October 27, 2005


The plans listed at HealthInsurance.com seem competitive and cover a wide range of coverage levels - from catastrophic care to very comprehensive.

Alternately if you're in a professional organization like the ACM there are often deals for group plans.
posted by phearlez at 8:25 AM on October 27, 2005


This is a really helpful thread- thanks all!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:58 PM on November 10, 2005 [1 favorite]


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