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Can I Afford It? Your Guide to Affordable Health Insurance

When shopping for health insurance, your first concern may be whether you can afford it. Many people assume they can't afford health insurance and take the financial risk of being uninsured. But the good news is that once you know how insurance works, you can pick a plan and choose options that give you the affordable health insurance you need.

Affordable Health Insurance and Premiums

The first thing you may think of when shopping for affordable health insurance is the premium. How are premiums determined?

  • Health insurance companies use data about the costs of medical treatments and the trend in costs to predict future medical expenses.
  • Premiums are based on claims paid in the past and expected future claims, as well as the balance of relatively healthy individuals with less healthy individuals insured by the company.
  • When insurers pay out more than they receive, or when future services are predicted to cost more, premiums may go up.

Affordable Health Insurance and Deductibles

One cost-saving option that many plans offer is an annual deductible.  (Health Maintenance Organizations [HMOs] do not have a deductible). A deductible is the amount you pay out of your own pocket within a specified period of time, usually twelve months, before benefits begin. Here is how it works:

  • Since you assume some of your own medical expenses, your premium is lowered.
  • The higher your annual deductible, the lower your annual premium.
  • Once you "meet" your annual deductible, benefits begin and last until the end of the calendar year.
  • At the beginning of a new year, you must meet the deductible before benefits start again.

Having a deductible can trim your premium and make health insurance more affordable. How do you decide on the deductible amount? Usually there are several levels offered per plan. You should choose a level that you can pay without causing financial hardship on you or your family. You should also consider the annual difference in premium versus deductible to determine under which premium-deductible combinations you are most likely to pay the least. 

Other Factors for More Affordable Health Insurance

Take time to learn how your health plan works. If you do, you may save money. Some examples:

  • Avoid additional costs to you by staying within the plan's network.
  • You may be able to reduce your expenses by choosing generic drugs.
  • Take advantage of money-saving member discounts on things like gym memberships and vision services.
  • Check into special incentives for taking part in programs to quit smoking, lose weight, exercise or other healthy activities.

Once you understand all the variables that affect your cost, you can find an affordable health insurance plan that's just right for you…and your budget.

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