Making a major
purchase can be difficult. But choosing individual
health insurance can be particularly difficult
because it touches the things that matter most: your
family's health and finances. Here are five
questions to ask when you're shopping for an
individual health plan.
1. Do I want short-term or long-term coverage?
Decide whether you want coverage for the long haul
or for a set period – for instance, for a few months
before your new employer’s insurance starts. If you
choose a long-term plan, your coverage is guaranteed
renewable. If you choose a short-term plan, it may
be easier to apply and your coverage may start
faster – but you can’t renew your plan when your
2. How much am I prepared to pay out of my own
Health insurance premiums work similar to car
insurance premiums: the higher your deductible, the
lower your premium. The key is to find a balance
between the deductible you’re prepared to pay and
the premium you can afford. If you want a
higher deductible, but you’re concerned about saving
enough to cover it, consider a plan that’s
compatible with a Health Savings Account (HSA). An
HSA is yours to keep from year to year and you can
raise your deductible as your savings grow.
3. Are my doctors in the network?
Most individual health plans are preferred provider
organization – or “PPO” – plans. When you go to a
“preferred” or “in-network” provider in your plan’s
• Your plan covers a larger share of the costs
• The provider can’t “balance bill” you for amounts
over what the plan allows. If you want certain
doctors, make sure they’re in the network for the
plan you’re considering. If you don’t want specific
doctors, but you still want to get the most value
from your insurance, look for a plan with lots of
network providers in your area.
4. How do I want to pay for doctor’s office visits?
You’re probably familiar with copayments – set
amounts you pay directly to providers when you get
medical care. When you shop for individual health
insurance, you’ll probably have a choice of plans.
Some have copayments for doctor’s visits, while
others require you to meet a deductible first. The
type of plan you choose is a matter of personal
5. What optional coverage do I need?
With most employer-based health insurance, things
like vision and dental coverage may be part of the
plan. But this coverage is optional with many
individual health plans and may cost additional
monthly premium. Also, you may be able to add
coverage for accidents or life insurance for also an