A Valuable Life Skill for Your Health:
10 Ways to Compare and Shop for Healthcare Plans

Healthcare is expensive. Since, in the US, the average cost of healthcare premiums rose six times faster than incomes between 2000 and 2009, more Americans are having trouble affording their healthcare every year.

Their options are to pay more money for their current plan, switch to a less comprehensive one, or go without insurance entirely which can be costlier.

Comparing and selecting the best healthcare plan is a valuable life skill. We offer 10 tips to help you do just that.

Surgeon looking thoughtful.

1. Use a Coverage Comparison Tool

An insurance coverage comparison tool or software can help you understand the details of various health plans. These tools allow you to easily compare policies and select the best plan for your needs.

The devices can also help you understand what things like out-of-pocket costs, deductibles, and co-pays mean.

2. Consider Any Supplemental (Medigap) Coverage You'll Need

In the US, many people find that the supplemental coverage they purchased through the government's Medicare program doesn't give them all the benefits they need. To receive a complete set of benefits, older Americans who aren't yet enrolled in Medicare Part B can purchase MediGap plans, which are health policies that offer additional coverage for services Medicare doesn't cover.

3. Look Beyond Price Alone

It's important to understand that the cheapest plan is not always the best for your needs.

For example, some plans have higher deductibles than others which means you'll pay more out of pocket until you meet them. Some plans may also require co-pays after meeting a deductible instead of covering most services with no cost at all.

It's important not just to look at which plan is cheapest but also how comprehensive it is and what kinds of care are covered by each plan.

Also consider other factors such as how easy it is to reach doctors, hospitals, and facilities near you.

4. Review All the Fine Print

It's important to take the time to review all the fine print of your plan. That means comparing what each policy covers, including how much it pays for different procedures and services.

Make sure you know whether or not the insured person has a deductible (the amount they must pay before insurance starts paying) as well as any co-payments.

Before signing any contract or agreement with an insurance company, read all the fine print so that you understand exactly what your plan covers. It's also important not to be fooled by marketing tactics used by some companies trying to sell their services.

5. Ask About Cost-Sharing Details

Before you choose a plan, ask your insurance agent about how much cost-sharing will be involved when you need medical care or treatment. You'll also want to know whether the policy has any limits on expenses over time and either an out-of-pocket maximum or lifetime benefits limit.

6. Remember to Shop for a New Plan Every Year

Healthcare plans can change from one year to the next, so you should always re-evaluate your coverage every 12 months. If a plan is too expensive, or if it covers less of what you need, then consider switching providers to get better value for your money.

The best time to compare and shop for a new health care plan is during open enrollment, which you should do every year around the same time. Some changes in your life, for example, getting married or divorced, could change which plans are right for you, so it's important to check out your options every year.

7. Understand Premiums and How to Reduce Them

Premiums are the fees insurance companies charge for your healthcare. They can change every year, and they often increase faster than other costs like groceries or rent. Suppose you're having difficulty affording your health plan because of high premiums.

In that case, there are a few possible solutions: use your employer's open enrollment period to find an alternative that has lower premiums. You can also increase your deductible to reduce the amount of money you're required to pay out of pocket each year.

Alternatively, you can switch providers to find a plan that reduces other costs like office visit co-pays for prescription drug co-pays.

8. Learn What Benefits You'll Be Entitled to, Including Full-Coverage Healthcare Expenses

You can purchase healthcare plans with different levels of benefits, but you may have to pay more out-of-pocket if the plan has a higher deductible or requires you to pay more co-pays and other costs. You'll want to choose a plan that offers complete coverage for medical expenses that are most relevant to your healthcare needs.

9. Learn How to Make Good Health A Habit

One of the best ways to improve your health is by making healthy lifestyle changes. Healthy habits include eating right, exercising regularly, quitting if you smoke, limiting alcohol consumption, and staying hydrated. Sleep is also vital for living a healthy lifestyle. You can find ways to improve your health by making small changes that fit into your daily routine, such as walking during lunch or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Mental health is also vital to overall health, so you'll want to take steps to improve your mental health too. You can accomplish this by talking with a therapist and finding ways to reduce stress each day.

10. Adopt Your Annual Physical

Caring for your body is one of the most basic and vital aspects of living a healthy life. By making time for an annual physical exam, you can ensure that your doctor screens you for potential problems like hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, and other major health concerns.

Your doctor can also tell you whether or not any recommended changes to your diet and exercise routine will have a significant impact on your health.

Healthcare plans can be challenging to compare side-to-side, which is why it's a good idea to use a coverage comparison tool. The ten tips above will help you learn what to look for when shopping for a healthcare plan. If you use them, you'll be able to find a plan that's right for your unique healthcare needs.

About the Author

Ron Evan is a Digital Marketing Specialist and a writer who takes his time writing articles about traveling, psychology, and digital marketing. He learned about the digital marketing industry accidentally almost four years ago. He is currently based in Taiwan, taking an MBA degree with a focus on Marketing. During his free time, he enjoys going to karaoke, reading a good book, or watching Netflix.