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Choose From Reputable Carriers

by John D. Nowacek

NORFOLK, VA (May 2010) - You’ve lost your job. Or, maybe you just graduated from college. For this or other reasons, you’re without health insurance. What now?

Most people head to the Internet to do research. With so many options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the process. How do you weed out the junk? Which words do you search to yield the best results?

By entering generic words such as “health insurance” into a search engine, you’ll get so many hits you may want to consider additional words to help narrow your results. Those can include your location, such as state and region, type of coverage, such as comprehensive or individual, and cost factors, such as low cost or affordable. An example of a more narrow search is “affordable individual health insurance in Virginia.”

Most health insurance websites include information about the plans they offer and the benefits of each. Many sites also include online tools to help you decide which plan is right for you based on the coverage you need, your budget or past experience, and other considerations. They may offer general educational information about the different kinds of health insurance plans as well.

Once you’ve found a few health insurance companies and done some research about the different plans they offer, you may want ensure that they are reputable before you make any decisions. There are websites that can help you do just that.

Most state bureau of insurance websites offer information about the health insurance companies in your state. In Virginia, you can visit the State Corporation Commission Bureau of Insurance website for more information. Additionally, the National Committee for Quality Assurance  can provide quality and satisfaction information for health insurance companies. The site also offers information about the health insurance brokers and agents in your area.

If you already have a physician you know and trust, you will probably want to know if your doctor participates with the health plan you are considering. Likewise, if you are already taking one or more prescription medications, it is a good idea to understand how or if your medication is covered by the health plan you are considering. Most health plan websites offer searchable provider directories and drug lists to help you do this before you make any decisions about which plan to purchase.

Deciding on a health plan and purchasing health insurance can be a complex process. If you have questions or would like guidance, using a licensed insurance agent or broker may also be a good option. Agents are independent and represent a number of insurance carriers. They can help you understand your health insurance needs and find a policy that meets them. Most agents or brokers have websites through which you can contact them for more information.

With the changes that are occurring with health reform, the federal government will be establishing a national website that lists all health insurance plans available across the country. For more information on this new portal, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.

Whether you search online or work directly with an agent, the process of selecting a health insurance plan is one that you shouldn’t take lightly. It’s best to do your research up front and to avoid any unexpected surprises down the road. 
John D. Nowacek is the eBusiness Manager at Optima Health, a Virginia-based health plan with more than 425,000 members, nationally-recognized for its quality, service and innovative programs.

For more news and information about Sentara Healthcare, refer to the Sentara news homepage.

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