There has been seemingly endless political wrangling in Washington D.C. over the proper way to rein in surging health care costs. This March, lawmakers celebrated the one-year anniversary of the historic passing of President Obama's health care overhaul law. Among other stipulations, the legislation ensures all children in the U.S. will be covered and that insurance companies will not be allowed to unfairly hike premiums.
However, critics – and some backers – assert the bill is hard to read and requires a degree in health policy to full understand because of all of its intricacies. If you're trying to buy new health insurance and are unsure of where to turn, fear not: You are not alone. Though policies vary among states, there are guidelines that can help confused consumers.
CNN reports the first rule everyone should follow is to buy a health insurance plan. Though some people – Millenials especially – are sometimes unwilling to pay for health coverage, having health insurance can prevent you from depleting your savings or going into debt from a minor illness or accident. Health care costs are high and not having health insurance puts you at a great financial disadvantage.
In the U.S., health insurance is often offered by employers. If your company has a group policy, be sure to open a plan as it is likely to be much less costly than a plan you can find on your own. If the company you work for offers multiple insurance plans, it's best to thoroughly research each one to ensure you're picking a plan that best fits your needs. While the process is undeniably painful, there are tools to help, including eHealthInsurance.com, which allows users to compare different plans.
Moreover, be wary of picking a plan simply because it has the lowest premium. According to experts, consumers should pick plans based on what they cover – not just on the upfront costs you have to pay. Ultimately, the cheapest plan is the one that offers the best benefits you're most likely to use for the best price.
It is also important to verify that your health insurance covers concerns like mental health, prescription drugs and dental care. A lot of health insurance companies – even highly rated ones – do not cover what many people would consider basic services so it's important to check to make sure you're getting what is important to you.
In terms of how much you're willing to pay, some health insurance plans cost far less than others, but have a very specific set of hospitals, doctors and other health care providers that you're restricted to. If you don't care about having limited choices and are primarily concerned with saving money, a plan like this could be a good fit for you.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services also provided helpful resources for those deciding what health insurance plan to buy. According to Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, consumers should ultimately choose plans that cover a wide swath of services and are affordable.
Under President Obama's new health care plan, any consumer who purchases or joined a new plan after September 23, 2010 is entitled to receive preventative screenings like mammograms and immunizations – without having to pay deductibles or co-payments to insurance companies. Further, young adults – and young entrepreneurs – are allowed to remain on their parents' health insurance plan until their 26th birthday, unless they are offered coverage at work.
While all of this may seem like information overload, just remember there are countless Websites to help you sort through the detritus. Though it may seem like a daunting task to pick an insurance plan – and by most accounts, it is – it's also worthwhile to take your time to ensure you're choosing a plan that is the right fit for you.