Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM
Originally published: June 17, 2002
About 20 million working Americans or their dependent children do not have health insurance, leaving their family finances open to disaster from unexpected medical expenses. Many other people, whose employers do not offer coverage, spend far more than necessary to buy it.
It’s always been difficult to find affordable health insurance, whether you’re a small-business owner or a self-employed individual. Adding to the problem is the fact that every state sets different policy requirements, and insurers must file for rate permission in states where they do business. The laws and the risks of writing individual or small-group health insurance policies have kept the health insurance market fragmented, expensive and inaccessible.
Until now. Now, the Internet has finally lived up to its promise. If you buy your own health insurance--or want to find a policy--check out eHealthInsurance.com. Last year more than 100,000 people obtained health insurance through this simple but incredibly diversified Web site.
Online help in comparison-shopping
EHealthInsurance.com allows individuals or small businesses to price and compare policies offered by the top-rated health insurers in their own states. You can also speak with licensed health insurance representatives who help you choose the policy that’s best for your situation. They also can assist in the application process and even help you in filing a claim.
The entire process is free to consumers. The insurance companies that post their policies defray the cost, just as those same insurers pay brokers and sales agents. Policies are offered by major companies, including Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Golden Rule and Principal. But you’ll only see quotes on policies that are offered in your state. So all you have to do to get started is log on to www.ehealthinsurance.com and disclose where you live and the ages of your family members.
With a click of your mouse, you can compare policies in several ways. You can rank available policies by monthly cost, or by deductible, or by copayment. Then you can choose up to four policies to compare side by side.
For example: In Chicago, a family of four, with the parents in their late 30s and two school-age children, could pay as little as $192 per month, if they were willing to pay the first $2,000 per year of medical costs. The first two doctor office visits per family member cost only $30 each. And for other expenses above the $2,000 deductible, policyholders are responsible for a 30 percent copayment.
That still leaves this family exposed to some medical costs, but the policy would cover major medical expenses up to $5 million.
If the family could afford a higher monthly payment of $307, they could lower the deductible to $1,500, with the same copayment requirements and four office visits per person a year at only $30 per visit.
A monthly insurance payment of $469 would give much greater coverage. This policy would have a family deductible of only $500 per year and require only a 20 percent copayment.
Health insurance is your responsibility
Gary Lauer, CEO of eHealthInsurance, points out that 40 percent of the families who bought health insurance through his Web site last year were previously uninsured. His message: “In many cases health insurance is both affordable and accessible, if people just know where to look.”
EHealthInsurance is also actively involved in lobbying Congress to make the cost of health insurance deductible for individuals. After all, Lauer explains, we all bear the cost of uninsured medical expenses in the form of higher medical bills from doctors and hospitals that are not completely reimbursed by the states for patients without coverage.
So if you know someone who thinks he or she “can’t afford” or “can’t find” health insurance, point them to eHealthInsurance.com. Even an inexpensive, high-deductible policy is better than none at all. Better for them, and better for all of us. And that’s The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of directors of McDonald’s Corp. and Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5’s 4:30 p.m. newscast.