by Jeff Gulleson
(1) You want to make sure it is really "health insurance" and not a "caring" or "sharing" plan. These plans have worked for some, but many participants have been disillusioned.
(2) Check out the A.A. Best Rating for the company that underwrites the plan. This is not hard to obtain. An A+ rating is good, but a B+ is often acceptable for health insurance companies.
(3) Check out the company administering the plan. These companies are called "Third Party Administrators" (TPAs). Some TPAs that have been around for a while and have grown large give poor service, while younger and smaller TPAs may give good service. So don't turn a TPA down just because it is small.
(4) Read the plan carefully to make sure the benefits match your needs, e.g., does the plan have maternity, medical evacuation, preventive care, etc? What is the policy regarding pre-existing conditions? Do they rider/waiver them or give limited coverage?
(5) Have their annual price increases been reasonable? At the present time "reasonable" would be somewhere in the 8 percent to 15 percent range.
(6) Do they offer the deductible you desire? Remember, the most cost-effective deductible is generally $1,000.
(7) How do they handle co-insurance? Do you pay co-insurance overseas or only in the USA?
(8) What is excluded from coverage? All insurance brochures have an "exclusion" section. Read that section carefully. Remember this key proverb when purchasing health insurance: THE LARGE PRINT GIVETH AND THE SMALL PRINT TAKETH AWAY!
(9) How good is the company at paying claims? Ask your broker this question. If he has represented the company for a year, he will have a pretty good idea of the speed with which claims are paid. Remember, the bottom line is that insurance is only as good as the claims-paying ability of the company.
(10) Finally, it is best to work through a broker who represents several companies. An agent technically represents just one company. If so, he only puts bread on his table if he sells you his product. A broker is different. He helps you search for a policy that will work for you, and is not dependent on selling you a specific plan.
Jeff Gulleson works with Good Neighbor Insurance (GNI). GNI is a brokerage that represents seven major international health insurance companies. You can contact GNI at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 866-636-9100.