Health care always seems to be a hot topic in political circles. Because resolution of important health care issues may take time, you may be left with the immediate task of evaluating your own health coverage situation.
Coverage for the financial costs of accidents and illness is one of the most important forms of protection an individual or family can have. Most people have health insurance through their employers. Some have no coverage, however, while others may have inadequate benefits.
If you want to supplement your employer-provided coverage, or buy a complete health insurance package, here are some things you should consider:
Types of Health Insurance
Basic health insurance covers part or all of the costs associated with hospitalization, surgery, and medical care often up to a yearly or lifetime dollar limit.
Major medical insurance, sometimes called catastrophic insurance, is usually designed to pick up where basic health insurance leaves off, providing protection against the financial costs of major illness. It comes with deductibles and co-payment features, which help keep costs down. You may elect to pay a larger share of your yearly costs in exchange for reducing the premiums you pay. With co-payment or co-insurance, you pay a portion (often 20%) of costs up to a specified level.
Hospital indemnity policies, often sold by mail, via telemarketing, or through associations provide direct cash benefits when you are hospitalized. These policies do not provide comprehensive coverage, but may be minimally helpful in supplementing other coverage and covering out-of-pocket expenses. Bear in mind, however, that these policies provide benefits only while you are hospitalized and only after a specified number of days.
Disability income policies provide you with an income, usually a percentage of your customary income, should you be disabled by an accident or illness that leaves you unable to work. You may have some disability coverage through your employer, and you may also be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. If these benefits won’t protect your family, should you be out of work for an extended period, consider an individual disability income policy as well. You can keep premium costs down by electing to wait 30 or even 90 days before benefits begin. Be sure to select a policy that covers both accident and illness, and one that pays benefits at least to age 65.
“Dreaded disease” policies, so-called because they apply only to the costs of a specific illness such as cancer, may be a questionable purchase, depending on your personal and family situation. You may also want to look at improving your overall health insurance coverage, spending your premium dollars on better comprehensive benefits, rather than concentrating on one disease.
Medicare supplements are insurance policies designed to fill some of Medicare’s coverage gaps for older people. There are a number of such policies available, typically paying Medicare’s deductible and co-insurance amounts, as well as covering some health services not covered by Medicare at all.
As you analyze your current health care coverage, and the many options available to you, you should seek knowledgeable assistance to discuss and clarify any points that you find unclear or unfamiliar.