Are you stuck with the health insurance you already have?

Buyer Beware

When reviewing different health insurance policies, be sure to read all of the fine print.
When reviewing different health insurance policies, be sure to read all of the fine print.

Although changing health plans might seem like an overwhelming task, you can minimize the angst by asking questions of your insurance agent. It's helpful to run through various scenarios, such as "what would I owe if I had a heart attack and the bill came to $100,000?" It's also helpful to know what is and isn't health insurance. The following list provides examples of policies that are sometimes confused as health insurance:

  • Dread disease policies: Dread disease policies cover only treatments for specific diseases and nothing else. Some states have banned the sale of these products, and regulators advise against purchasing them. The alternative is to buy a good comprehensive policy.
  • Accident-only policies: Much like the dread disease policy, accident-only policies cover certain things -- in this case, accidents. Federal health officials say a good comprehensive policy will cover the costs of injuries sustained in an accident.
  • Supplemental coverage: Supplemental policies add coverage to your existing policy. For example, one type of supplemental policy pays cash for every day you're in the hospital, although it doesn't attempt to cover the entire stay. Other types of supplemental policies help purchase prescription drugs. Private insurers can also sell customers a policy called Medigap, which pays the expenses that Medicare does not cover.
  • Discount plans: Discount plans are not insurance and won't cover your medical expenses. Instead, these plans offer customers a discount if they go to specific medical providers.
  • Stacked policies: Many insurers combine several limited-coverage policies and sell them to consumers. Don't mistake stacked policies as comprehensive coverage [source: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services].

Try not to be intimidated or too stressed when changing health plans. Do your homework. Know what you're buying and know what's covered. You'll be healthier for it.

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More Great Links


  • Appleby, Jule and Schiff, Jaclyn. "New Survey: Consumers Who Buy their Own Health Insurance Report Big Rate Increase Request." Kaiser Health News. June 21, 2010. (Jan., 2011).
  • Bradford, Stacey L. "Buying Private Health Insurance." The Wall Street Journal Smart Money. Jan. 7, 2008. (Jan., 2011)
  • Fritze, John. "Average family health insurance policy: $13,375, up 5%." USA Today. Sept. 16, 2009. (Jan., 2011).
  • Grim, Ryan. "Health Insurance Profits Soar, Dem Calls For Rebates." Huffington Post. Nov. 10, 2010. (Jan. 2011).
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  • "You Ask update: FL band rocking for Sean Semon's heart." March 25, 2010. (Jan., 2011).
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  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "What's Not Health Insurance?" (Jan., 2011).