4 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Health Insurance

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If government shutdown has distracted you, here’s your reminder that the time to buy universal health care is now.

By Jan. 1, the Affordable Healthcare Act (also known as Obamacare) will go into effect, requiring that all American citizens have health insurance. If you’re late to the game or you’ve never done this before, here are four common mistakes to avoid to make sure your health insurance won’t be a financial burden.

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1. Picking a plan that doesn’t cover your needs.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, no one will be turned away for a pre-existing condition. But that doesn’t mean all plans will cover treatments for all illnesses you may have. For example, chiropractor services may not be covered, but that could be something that helps your back pain. That also means that if you need to take any medications, those drugs need to be on a pre-approved “formulary list.” If that list doesn’t include a drug you are already on, or if you can only take the brand version and the generic version is listed instead, you could pay hefty prices out-of-pocket for the medication you need.

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2. Picking a plan that doesn’t cover your doctors.

You go to the doctors you have now because you like them. They may be close to your home or work. But most importantly, you trust them. You’ve bonded through that time you had a scare. And you know they will have your back with things get serious. Or maybe already have. Just because the health insurance law is changing does not mean you need to find new ones. If staying with the doctors you already have is a priority for you, makes sure when you pick a plan that the insurance will consider your doctors “in network.”

3. Picking a plan you can’t afford.

The best advice for this is to just be realistic about what you can and cannot afford. Make sure your plan covers the minimum of your health needs but don’t buy a plan with a sky-high deductible if you think you will never come close to that threshold. A higher deductible keeps monthly premiums low. But a bit of a cushion is good: remember, tragedy can strike at any time. But overpaying will be too much of a financial strain.

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4. Picking a plan without help.

Professionals specialize in finding the best health insurance for a client for a reason. It’s tricky to navigate the differences between coinsurance, copays, premiums and deductibles. If you make a mistake, it could be financially disastrous. Even if you think you may have the hang of it, ask an expert to look it over. It’s their job to assess risk. Let them do it.

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