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Book Review: Health Care on Less Than You Think by Fred Brock

If you’re like me, every year you sign up for your health insurance plan through your employer and ever year you do little to check what that insurance actually covers. The only exception to this rule is when you change plans (usually because you changed employers) and then you might compare and contract, but otherwise it’s on autopilot. You probably do that because health insurance is boring, complicated, and your insurance will probably protect you. Therein lies what I enjoy the most about Fred Brock’s book, Health Care on Less Than You Think [3]: it’s simplicity, conversational style, and an ease to read. So what is the book about? It covers basically every aspect of health insurance that you could possible imagine, including health savings accounts, saving on prescription drug medications, and even goes through the fine print of your insurance plan – all with an eye at saving you money and having it cost as little as possible.

One of the scariest parts about this book was when I jumped to the fine print chapter, Chapter 7: Mastering Your Insurer’s Fine Print, where it begins with Brock detailing an anecdote by Richard Price, a retired equity portfolio manager in Miami Beach, Florida, where Price had found, after reading his explanation of benefits (EOB – the mailing you get from your insurer after you have service performed detailing the costs, what was covered, what wasn’t) found that he was being underpaid by his insurance company by $10,000 over the last two years. I usually give my EOBs a cursory glance (very very cursory) but as your medical expenses increase, it’s critically important for you to review a lot of these documents because $10,000 is serious money – especially if you’re on a fixed income retirement. Unfortunately, as a savvy consumer, we need to stay on top of the insurance companies (and any company really) even though it should be unnecessary. In this particular anecdote, it was sloppiness and carelessness on the part of Aetna that led to these errors – not fraud but you never know.

Lastly, while not immediately applicable to me, one chapter that I know is probably of great value is the one on finding insurance once you’re off or out of the a job (Off The Job is the title, it’s chapter three) because finding independent insurance is very difficult and very expensive. When my fiancĂ©e left her job at in New Jersey and moved down to Maryland, she floated on COBRA insurance [4] for a little while (luckily never having to activate it) and then she sought out independent insurance for a few months after that. If I had this book back then, I would’ve known that after COBRA comes HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. While expensive, HIPAA gives former employees the ability to get insurance regardless of preexisting conditions and no waiting periods. That bit of information alone is probably worth the $15 list price (only $10 from Amazon [3])of the book (or some late fees from the library).

After reading this book, I think I’m going to try to find Brock’s other two books and give them a look – Retire on Less Than You Think [5] and Live Well on Less Than You Think [6]. You can really tell that this guy “wrote for the masses,” in that nothing is overly verbose and chunky. If you don’t know your health insurance (especially the fine print and the little tricks of their trade) and need some help, I’d recommend giving this book a quick read.