Health insurance: we buy it, but we always hope that we never have to use it. Not having health insurance can lead to a variety of complications, both medical and financial. Since the Affordable Care Act began mandating health insurance for most Americans who can afford it, people who do not buy health insurance will have to pay a penalty of $95 (or 1% of annual income – whichever is greater). Furthermore, without health insurance, annual check-ups are not covered and as a result, certain conditions may go undetected.
- Parents’ Health Insurance Plan (through insurance company or employer)
- School-sponsored Health Insurance Plan
- Student Health Insurance Plan
- Individual Health Insurance Plan
Selecting health insurance plans can often seem like an overwhelming task, but by setting aside some time in order to plan in advance, you can easily pick the plan that both fits your medical needs as well as your wallet! These are the steps that you need to follow before choosing a health insurance plan:
1. Identifying “Must-Haves”:
Although it is unlikely that you will be able to foresee a medical emergency, there are certain components of your insurance that are easier to predict. For example, if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, make sure to find coverage for screening tests and cholesterol-lowering drugs. If you have a chronic condition, such as hypothyroidism, make sure that your medication is covered by the insurance, listed in the formulary. However, under the Affordable Care Act, all plans are required to provide preventive services.
2. Check the Network:
Insurance plans typically only pay a fraction or none of the costs of seeing a physician out-of-network. So if you have a physician and/or specialists that you prefer, check beforehand to make sure they’re listed in the network.
3. Know Your Costs:
Insurance plans state how much you will pay out of pocket, typically through either copays, in which you pay a flat fee for a service, and coinsurance, in which you pay a percentage of the cost. If you’re relatively young and healthy, it might be better to choose a plan with a higher deductible, i.e. how much your insurance company expects you to pay before they do. Although this may substantially increase costs in an emergency, your monthly payment will be lower.
4. Walk Through Different Plans:
Buying insurance is similar to buying a car – there are many different types that generally have the same benefits and price. You want to spend some time looking through the details of each plan to see which one truly suits you the best!
About the Author
Niharika Vattikonda is currently a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Northern Virginia – she loves biology and computer science. She recently completed a yearlong freshman research project on the effect of electromagnetic fields on E. coli. She first was exposed to Computer Science in middle school, when she learned coding in HTML/CSS, studied Java in freshman year, and is now learning app development on her own. Niharika enjoys STEM outreach, starting science clubs for girls at elementary schools and volunteering at science fairs and hackathons. When she’s not coding or writing for Scientista, Niharika enjoys debating, participating in Model United Nations, singing, and writing for her own blog, Teen Thoughts on Politics.