For most people, group health insurance is a better choice than individual health insurance. Group insurance usually costs less and offers more benefits.
However, some people can't get group health insurance because they are self-employed, work for a small company, have run out of COBRA benefits, or for some other reason. They must turn to individual health insurance plans – insurance they buy themselves.
Many insurance companies offer health insurance plans to individuals. However, if you're over 50 years old, there can be problems:
It might be harder to find a company that will sell you a health insurance policy, especially if you have a serious medical problem.
You might have to get a medical exam to prove you are insurable, meaning you don't have a serious medical problem.
Individual insurance usually costs more than group insurance.
You might get fewer benefits than with group insurance.
It's important to shop around and compare health insurance policies and plans. A first step could be to decide how much you can afford to pay. Then, you can look for health insurance that will give you the best health coverage for you and your family at that price.
The answers to the following questions can help you compare both the cost and the benefits of the plans you are considering:
How much of my doctor and hospital bills will this health insurance plan pay for?
How much will I have to pay each month (premium) for this plan?
How much will I have to pay (deductible) before the plan begins to pay?
How much will I have to pay for office visits to the doctor?
Does this plan pay for preventive health care? This includes routine medical checkups and shots, such as a flu shot, to prevent disease.
Does this plan have rules for people who already have serious, chronic medical problems? Will these rules keep me from getting the care I need? If so, for how long?
What services are covered by this health insurance? Will it pay for care at a hospital emergency room or urgent care center? Does it cover routine surgery, hospital stays, doctor visits, nursing home stays, home health care, and medical equipment and supplies?
Does this plan cover visits to the eye doctor and the dentist?
Does this plan cover prescription drugs?
Does this plan pay for catastrophic medical costs, costs that are so high it would take most of my money to pay for them? Is there a limit to how much I must pay each year?
Is there a yearly or lifetime limit to how much the plan will pay for medical costs?
A fee-for-service insurance policy (also called indemnity insurance) is a traditional kind of health insurance. It pays a part of each medical service you get, such as doctor visits or hospital stays. You pay the rest of the cost. You can go to any doctor or hospital you choose. However, you usually pay a higher monthly cost for your medical care than if you were part of a managed care plan. Traditional health insurance is less common than it used to be.