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The smart way to buy cheap health insurance

 The smart way to buy cheap health insurance
Is it as unlikely to find affordable health insurance as facing a unicorn in possession of the Holy Grail? It should not be Here are seven steps you can take to reduce costs.

1. Understand your alternatives to purchasing individual health insurance

The cheapest purchase you will make is the one you do not make. You may never have to buy individual health insurance. Depending on the country you live in and your income, you may be eligible for Medicaid. You can call the nearest Medicaid office or visit to determine if you qualify (see Step 3 below for the last route).

If you have children, there are a few ways to explore. First, many states expanded children's coverage through CHIP. To find out if your children are eligible for CHIP, go to the Medicaid CHIP website and answer the questions in "Can I have it?".

Second, check to see if your children may be eligible under other parents' coverage. Even if you are divorced, if your former spouse has employer-provided health insurance, your children may still be covered by your coverage.

2. Know what you need and what you can pay

Assuming that the first step does not apply to you, the most important step in finding cheap health insurance is to determine exactly what you need in terms of coverage and what you can afford. If you buy more coverage than you need, you will spend more than you need. As for knowing what you can afford, you can't spend money you don't have.

Under the Affordable Care Act, each individual health insurance plan must cover 10 essential health benefits. These benefits are:
  • Outpatient care (does not require hospitalization)
  • Visits to the emergency room
  • Hospital care in a hospital.
  • Be careful before and after your baby is born.
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services.
  • Prescribed medication
  • Services / devices to help you recover from an injury or treat a chronic disability or condition (including physical and occupational therapy)
  • Laboratory analysis
  • Preventive services
  • Dental care and child care

While this may seem like a fairly comprehensive list, different health insurance companies may vary depending on how they cover these benefits. Think of any specific needs you may have.

3. Go to

Perhaps the easiest step is to go to the website and complete the order. It is easy, that is, if you do this during an open registration period (the next stage begins on November 1) or if you have a life rating change. These life changes include marriage, having a baby, or losing other coverage. By the way, the website will help you see if you have a qualified change in life.

You will need to provide your email address first to create an account. will send you an email so you can verify your email address. Once verified, you can log into the website to complete your order. You will also be notified if you are eligible for Medicaid.

4. Compare costs - all will list the health insurance options available in your state along with the insurance premiums and the amount (if any) of the federal benefits you can get. How many options you have will depend on where you live. Assuming enough insurance companies are involved in your state, you can choose between bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans.

Now for the difficult part. You should compare the costs of each plan, not just the premium rates. Bronze plans will definitely get cheaper premiums, but they only pay 60% of medical costs vs. 90% of platinum plans. When companies buy products and services, they see something called "total cost of ownership," which includes all of the costs associated with purchasing. To find really cheap health insurance, you must follow this same approach.

Take your medical costs out of the past few years (rough estimates are better than nothing if you don't have this information available). Then calculate the amount you would have spent out of pocket based on discounts, copays, and coinsurance, plus what you would spend in monthly installments with each plan. The cheapest general health insurance plan may not actually be a bronze plan, or even a silver plan.

What if you expect a major change in medical expenses? Just adjust your accounts to reflect your best estimate of what your medical costs might be over the next year. Even if you do not expect a major change, it can be very helpful to implement some "what if" scenarios to assess the effect of medical expenses that are much higher or lower than in the past.

5. Buy elsewhere

Imagine buying a car. Will you stop buying at the first agency? Of course not, at least not if you're trying to get the best price. This same mindset applies to the purchase of cheap health insurance. is the first "agency" you visit.

Your smart next step is to go to an online health insurance broker. One of the biggest is electronic health (NASDAQ: EHTH). The company's health insurance site has more than 13,000 plans from more than 180 airlines. However, eHealth is not the only game in town: and GoHealth, along with many others, offer similar functionality.

Another alternative is to go directly to the websites of health insurance companies. Many allow you to get quotes online. This can be very helpful when you are familiar with insurance companies in your state that are not listed on the websites of online health insurance brokers. You can also contact a reputable health insurance agent in your area to obtain individual insurance rates.

However, there is one important thing to keep in mind: You can get federal support only if you have a government exchange ( or your state exchange), authorized agents with the appropriate certification, or qualified online insurance markets that you share with them. Government Exchange (click here to see eligible websites).

6. Compare costs (again)

No matter how painful, you will need to compare costs again using the information obtained in Step Five. However, remember the old proverb: "Without pain there is no gain."

Could the cheapest health insurance for you be the one that can't get federal benefits? It's possible. The "total cost of ownership" approach mentioned in step 4 might be surprising. Depending on your medical costs, a very high discount exchange plan may be your least expensive alternative.

7. Choose the plan that best suits your needs.

In the end, you will definitely need to review step two. A cheap health insurance plan that doesn't meet your needs won't be as valuable as a slightly more expensive plan that meets your needs.

Also, keep in mind that the cost of anything, including health insurance, goes beyond the mere cash effect. For example, continuing to visit a doctor who has trusted you for years may be worth paying more on your monthly fees. Be sure to carefully consider provider networks for each health insurance plan that considers whether choosing a service provider is important to you.

Finding cheap health insurance is not as difficult as finding a unicorn or Holy Grail (or both at the same time). It may take a little time and effort, but it is an investment that should pay off heavily over time.