Have to Buy Your Own Health Insurance? Here’s How.

New federal legislation signed by President Barack Obama will provide increased opportunities for uninsured people to buy health insurance.

Most people still obtain health insurance as a benefit from their employer. However, the number of people required to purchase their own insurance has increased with the recent recession. Consumers can buy insurance through their employer, directly from private companies, through subsidized government programs, or through the Medicaid program.

Employer Group Insurance Plans

Many companies allow you to purchase health insurance at special rates through group plans. In most cases, such insurance is offered as a benefit usually once the person becomes a permanent employee. However, some companies offer such insurance plans as an option that the employee must pay for with their own funds. If employer insurance is offered as a benefit, the employer pays the insurance premium without any impact on the employee’s pay.

As the company offers many customers to the insurance company, they qualify for lower rates as an incentive for their business. The health insurance companies also know that by having many customers they distribute the risk since the chance of multiple employees getting sick at the same time are low.

Private Health Insurance

If the employer does not offer an insurance plan, or a person or family is self-employed, then they must find private health insurance plans on their own. Blue Cross is an example of a company that offers health insurance plans directly to consumers.

Since these are most likely not group plans, the premiums will be higher for the same services offered at group rates. Also the deductibles will tend to be very high. However, as health insurance companies recognize that self-employed people can have limited budgets, they usually offer a wide range of programs, so that everyone can have at least some minimal coverage. Some insurance plans work together with a health savings account that provides tax-free funds to pay for health-related costs.

Finding health insurance plans is not difficult and can easily be done online where many websites offer comparison services. Such sites allow you to sort different policies based on criteria that you select. Most insurance companies also offer free online quotes to help you when shopping around for the best deals.

Subsidized Government Health Insurance

The new federal health care bill will allow Americans to obtain low cost health insurance through special markets known as “exchanges.” In order to qualify for these exchange programs, the person or family must not earn more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

Although these exchanges will not be available until 2014, there are some special programs available now to seniors and children. Seniors at least 65 years old, and certain other individuals like the disabled are eligible for Medicare health coverage. Children are covered by a federally-mandated state program known as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP coverage is available for families who cannot afford private health insurance.

People who belong to certain high risk categories such as those with pre-existing health problems can take advantage of a special high risk pool. The pool was established by the new health care bill and will stay in existence until 2014 when the exchanges begin operation. People who qualify as high risk will have out-of-pocket medical costs capped at $5,950 for individuals and $11,900 for families.

Free Medicaid Health Insurance

Each state has its own Medicaid program that provides coverage for families who do not qualify for other types of coverage, or who otherwise need additional coverage. In order to qualify, families must meet specific limits on income and assets. Some families may also qualify for Medicaid with a spend-down, a monthly deductible that must be paid before coverage begins. Medicaid is a federally mandated program, but each state is allowed some leeway in how they run the program.

Starting in 2014, the new healthcare legislation will expand Medicaid coverage to anyone who earns less that 133 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2009, the federal poverty level for a four-member family was $29,327. The program’s reimbursement system will also be brought up to par with that of Medicare in order to encourage more doctor participation.