Are you stuck with the health insurance you already have?

Drug Pictures If you're not happy with your health insurance, chances are there is a better option available. See more pictures of drugs.
© Locke

Not once in his 30-plus years did Sean Semon expect to be starring in his own health care nightmare. In November 2009, a cardiologist told the strapping security guard that he needed a heart transplant. Semon had health insurance, but the $700,000 procedure was not covered by his policy. To fund the operation, Semon had to rely on donations [source:]. Although Semon's plight was a headline grabber in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nev., insurance companies deny claims, big and small, every day.

What can a person do if he's not happy with his health insurance? Since we live in a free market society, a person can change health insurance plans at any time. Practically speaking, though, that's easier said than done. Trying to stay healthy is an expensive proposition, so expensive that spending on health care in the United States in 2008 totaled $7,681 per person [source: Kaiser Family Foundation]. Many factors, including the predominance of chronic diseases and people's ever-increasing lifespan, are constantly driving the price of health care up [source: Kaiser Family Foundation].

Consequently, health insurance is not cheap. Luckily, most working Americans -- more than 159 million people -- participate in employer-based health insurance [source: Stanton]. In this system, employers pick up most of the cost with minimal expense to the employee. Realistically, jettisoning a company health plan in favor of a more expensive private plan might not be the smartest financial move, especially when the average cost of a private family health plan in 2009 was more than $13,000 annually [source: Fritze].

Don't fret, though. If you're married and your spouse has health care coverage at work, you can change to that plan. Additionally, federal law allows people who leave their job to continue with their former employer's health coverage for up to 18 months. However, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, plan is very expensive [source: The Wall Street Journal].

If you want to change health plans for whatever reason, there are certain things you should look for. Go to the next page to find out what they are.