By Lisa Zamosky
Sherry, a single mother of two boys, recently wrote with the following question about finding health insurance coverage:
I am in a catch 22. My brother supports our family as a trucker. My brother is covered by his job, but because we are not husband and wife I cannot get any health insurance coverage. Any suggestions?
Your Right (or Not!) to Coverage
There are a number of options Sherry can explore.
First, if her two boys are younger than age 19, they are guaranteed a health plan on the private insurance market. The Affordable Care Act (the health reform law), which passed in 2010, prohibits insurers from turning kids away, even if they have a pre-existing health condition.
It won’t be until January 2014, however, that adults are guaranteed the same protection. That’s when health reform takes full effect and insurers will be required to accept all comers regardless of their health status or age. However, if you don’t have a health condition, or you’ve dealt with a fairly minor medical issue in the past, there’s a good chance you’ll qualify for a health plan now.
Of course, there’s the issue of cost. Buying your own insurance can be very expensive, which prevents many people from getting coverage. Again, once the main provisions of health reform are implemented a little more than a year from now, many people will qualify either for Medicaid or federal subsidies to help them pay for the insurance.
Resources to Help Find Coverage
There are a number of resources available to help in your search for insurance.
Healthcare.gov is the government website that, after entering some information about your situation, will provide you with a number of insurance options to explore. If you’re looking to buy coverage on the private insurance market, you can compare details of up to three plans side-by-side.
A new website, HealthPocket.com, is designed to give consumers complete and easy-to-understand information about the insurance options available to them.
Once on the site, you input your zip code, choose the type of plan you’re interested in – individual, family, Medicare, or Medicaid – and the site displays every health plan available within your geographic region. You can then compare each plan by price, quality, and value rankings. What’s more, if you’re applying for individual or family coverage, you can view the percentage of people who applied for a particular health plan and were denied coverage, as well as what percentage were charged a price higher than the one advertised.
It’s totally free to use the service, and unlike many other health insurance websites, your privacy is protected while you conduct your search. “You don’t have to tell us who you are or provide personal information or an email address,” says Steve Zaleznick, Healthpocket’s executive director for consumer strategy and development.
Another good option for finding insurance is CoverageforAll.org, a resource of the Foundation for Health Coverage Education (FHCE). It offers an insurance eligibility quiz to help you identify coverage for which you may be eligible, including public programs that would provide insurance coverage at no cost. Once you answer the five-question quiz you’ll see plan costs, a sign-up check list, and links to every program available in your state.
Finally, you might consider working with an insurance agent who can help you explore your options for coverage that meet both your medical and financial needs. You can find a licensed insurance agent in any state at the National Association of Health Underwriters website.
What insurance challenges are you facing? Share your story or ask a question in the comments section below.