How To Get Independent Health Insurance

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Hospital Vitals MonitorThree years ago my wife, then my girlfriend, quit her job in New Jersey and moved down to Maryland. In doing so, she also gave up her employer sponsored health insurance, which was a big deal.

Why is employer subsidized/sponsored health insurance so important? There are two reasons why an employer subsidized or sponsored health insurance plan is always emphasized, practically everywhere. The first is that your employer often defrays a significant portion of the plan’s premium payments. The second is that the insurance company agreed to insure all employees as a single class, meaning they can’t pick and choose. If someone has a poor medical history, the insurance company is required to insure that person (of course they can raise the premiums across the board the following year). This is very important for someone with a poor medical history because as an individual they stand a much smaller chance of getting affordable coverage.

COBRA Coverage

If you recently left or lost your job and your former employer had health insurance coverage, they are required by law to extend COBRA coverage. COBRA is both the coverage and an acronym for the bill that created it, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. In fact, I created a mini-site devoted to discussing COBRA called Understand COBRA that may be of value (All part of my “learn something by blogging about it” mentality). Either way, this will give you some coverage as you seek out independent health insurance.

Use A Broker

eHealthInsurance is a health insurance search engine that has been referenced by major sites like Yahoo! Finance and named the 2008 Best Site for Health Insurance by Kiplingers, but I’ve never personally used them except to research rates (they are owned by eHealth, Inc., which has been in business since 1997). There are many others but some strike me as spammy and eHealthInsurance lets you get a quick ballpark quote using only your zip code, age, whether you smoke, and student status. From there you will be presented with a list of options.

My first option was CareFirst Blue Choice $0 deductible HMO $30 PCP/$40 Specialist starting at $137 a month. The second was CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield $2,500 deductible Indemnity starting at $70 a month. There were maybe a dozen options in total. From there you’ll have to create an account for more information (you will need to provide further personal details including your social security number, current primary care physician, etc.).

Join An Organization

Regardless of the quote you get via eHealthInsurance, you should check out the rates made available to you through various organizations in your area. If you can join a local Chamber of Commerce, oftentimes members have access to group rates for health insurance. You could also consider the Freelancers Union and see how much insurance would cost through their partners (they have health, dental, term life, and long term disability). I’m sure there are more out there that offer insurance to their members, but those two are probably the easiest to join.

Marry for Insurance

This one is very tricky and can easily come back to bite you since marriage is both a religious/spiritual and a legally binding agreement. Ignoring the religious/spiritual issues, the legal issues step primarily from the tax perspective. While you may be getting health insurance, you may also come under fire from the marriage penalty when it comes to income taxes. If you opt to go this route, consult a tax professional (or do some math) to see how the various filing scenarios affects your taxes.

This is a good option for those who have serious medical issues that preclude them from getting insurance on their own. If an employer offers health insurance, they cannot, by law, exclude an employee’s spouse from the insurance plan.

Move To A Country w. Universal Health Care

The last and final option for someone who has exhausted all other options is to move to a country that offers a national/universal health insurance program that would cover them. I’m afraid I don’t know much about the health insurance coverage internationally but this Wikipedia page on universal health care should offer a good start if you’re considering this option.

Did I miss any options?

(Photo: brykmantra)

{ 8 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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8 Responses to “How To Get Independent Health Insurance”

  1. Meoip says:

    If you work for a company looking for insurance don’t forget to look for Human Resource Outsourcing or employee leasing options. They employee your employees and then lease them back to the company this allows them to offer group plans to your employees. They run payroll and have a few other options.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Did you look into whether your wife (girlfriend at the time) could qualify as a “life partner” under your company’s health insurance plan? My company offers the same benefits to life partners and a co-worker managed to get his girlfriend covered through this clause. I thought it was a pretty good idea myself…

  3. jim says:

    Yes I did, to be considered a “domestic partner” she would’ve had to have lived with me for at least a year.

  4. Bradley says:

    When moving to a country with universal healthcare I assume you have become a citizen to reap the benefits. I looked into moving to the UK a few years back and I remember it takes 5 years before you can apply for citizenship. Not sure about any other countries.

  5. ejosef says:

    Just wondering what your thoughts are on a single payer system such as the one being proposed in H.R. 676.

    I grew up in Canada and moved to Maryland 5 few years back. Even though I have employer sponsored health insurance, I got to say it’s pain dealing with the insurance company and a shock how much premium I pay for plus all the co-pays. Even though the taxes were higher in Canada, I feel like I’m paying more now for healthcare. I also liked the fact that in Canada I could choose any doctor or hospital I wanted to go to without worring whether they were in-network or not. As for service, I really don’t see much difference – the wait times and quality of service are about the same. I also understand that the companies in Canada pay a smaller share of the healthcare expenses than US companies – I could believe that given my company every year reminds us that it pays 80% of the share of healthcare expenses of it’s employees. I bet if they were paying less on healthcare benefits, they’d be more generous with my pay.

    Even though I’m still a Canadian citizen, I have to actually be residing in Canada for at least 6 months before I can avail of the universal health care there – that sucks…

  6. When I left the workforce to go completely freelance I used COBRA for awhile and then went with a plan I found on eHealthInsurance. I’ve been really happy with them. They work independently from the Aetna plan that I bought and supposedly will help me with Aetna if I need them to. I recently got an e-mail from them saying that Aetna was about to raise my rates (I haven’t heard this from Aetna yet) and suggesting this might be a good time to shop around. I’m going to wait until Aetna notifies me of the rate change, just in case, but I may well go back to the drawing board with eHealthInsurance if I receive that notification.

  7. Linda Kennedy says:

    I am 62 and retiring from my permanent job. I need health insurance for the next 3 years. Any advice??

  8. Confused says:

    Can a child under age 26, having a temporary job for 9 months, be qualified to be under a parent’s health plan until age 26? His employer does have a health plan but is very expensive which child cannot afford to pay monthly premiums. If he is not qualified to be under his parent’s plan, but once his job is terminated, is it possible to be qualified then?

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