How to Shop for Health Insurance in 3 Simple Steps

secure Editorial Standards

SmartFinancial Offers Unbiased, Fact-based Information. Our fact-checked articles are intended to educate insurance shoppers so they can make the right buying decisions. Learn More

Open enrollment 2020 is right around the corner, and everyone's scrambling for cheap health insurance quotes. However, health insurance is an expensive purchase and often a confusing one, too. Even though the federal mandate to buy Obamacare has been repealed from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it's still important to have proper health insurance coverage in case you get sick or have medical complications.

An unforeseen surgery or a broken bone can easily translate to thousands of dollars worth of doctor bills and treatment expenses if you don't have health insurance coverage. When you shop for a health plan, keep in mind that California health insurance quotes will differ from health insurance quotes in Florida. Each state has its own marketplace and laws so costs for individuals and families will be different from one state to another, even for private insurance.

1. Estimate Your Monthly Expenses

Finding affordable health insurance can be confusing if you don't take a few steps before choosing a policy. For example, your monthly premium may be higher with one plan versus another but that coverage may save you some money in copays or deductibles if you visit a certain doctor regularly. It's always a good idea to consider how often you plan to see doctors and what prescriptions you take on an ongoing basis. Some plans will have more thorough coverage for your needs than others so don't simply consider your monthly premiums alone.

Copay: Look at the breakdown for costs to see what you would pay as a copay when you visit the doctor. Your annual checkup, or preventive care, is often 100% covered if you have an HMO or use an in-network provider with a PPO. Otherwise, you're paying for services out of pocket until reach the deductible limit, after which your insurance covers your costs.

Coinsurance: If you have a PPO, you're paying your own medical costs until you reach the deductible limit. After that you still pay a portion of your medical bills for what is called coinsurance. You'll see breakdowns like 80/20 or 75/25. That means your insurer would pay 80% or 75% and you'd pay the remainder. Some PPOs pay for preventive care before you pay the deductible while others do not.

Deductible: The deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket before your coverage kicks in, if you have a PPO. If your deductible is $1,000, you have to pay for $1,000 worth of visits and treatments before you're covered by the insurer. Prescription drugs are usually not included in this cost.

Out-of-Network Doctors: If you know you will need to get medical treatment from a doctor that does not accept any HMO health insurance plans, you'll want to figure this into your monthly cost. Considering your need to see this physician, it may be financially beneficial to get on a PPO plan, with which you may be partially covered after meeting a deductible.

Choose The Best Individual Health Insurance Plans and Get Covered Fast!

2. Choose the Type of Policy

After going over all the expenses you are expecting to incur in the upcoming year, look at the different options you have for open enrollment or outside of that period (you can buy health insurance any time of year with a qualifying event). Choose from one of the types of health insurance plans below:

High-deductible Health Plan (HDHP): Low premiums, high deductibles and out-of-pocket limits. This type of health plan makes sense if you're young and healthy and rarely visit the doctor but can bank on having a limit to your expenses if you have a sudden and unforeseen medical emergency. That's why these plans are also called catastrophic health plans. If you want cheap health insurance, consider this type of coverage, unless you have chronic health issues. In that case, this might end up being quite costly.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): This is a popular form of health insurance plan. Before open enrollment, find out which HMOs your doctor(s) are in-network providers for. HMOs are cheaper than other policies but only if you visit in-network doctors. Preventive care is often free and copays are low so you pay very little out-of-pocket if anything at all.

Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO): If you travel for work or just travel very much in general some health insurance companies offer EPOs which are just like HMOs but with a wider geographic network of doctors to cover a wide geographic area.

Point of Service Plan (POS): These types of plans are harder to find and are often expensive. However, you can get health care service anywhere and by any provider. The way it works is you pay upfront and then submit receipts from doctors visits for reimbursement as coverage.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): The convenience of PPO plans is that you are free to go to doctors and hospitals outside your network, but may be 100% covered if you use in-network providers.

3. Online Health Insurance Quotes and the Health Insurance Marketplace

Whether you're interested in Obamacare open enrollment or if you want coverage from a private health insurance company like Humana health insurance, you'll want to compare rates after you approximate what your healthcare costs for the coming year will be.

The best way to get the most competitive rates for the coverage you need is to compare health insurance companies and health insurance quotes. After you submit the form you'll get several competing health insurance rates to choose from, and we'll connect you with an agent in your area so you can buy the coverage or ask questions about the plan you're considering.

Open enrollment 2020 starts in November and ends in January, so make sure you don't miss the deadline to sign up or you may not be able to get coverage until next year.

Get a Free Health Insurance Quote Online Now.