Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Look Before You Leap...

We’ve all seen them, plastered on telephone poles, flooding our email, jamming our fax machines: Save on Health Care! Alternative to Expensive Insurance! Guaranteed Acceptance!
What are they? They’re “discount cards,” which we’ve discussed before.
So why bring it up again?
Because sometimes, people get hurt.
The voicemail was succinct: “I’m shopping for health insurance. Please call me to tell me about the plans you offer.” Okay, routine, someone shopping for a new policy. Maybe her premiums got “too high,” or her doc left the network, or she had a claims problem. Could be anything, really.
Kathy (not her real name)[ed: dunh!] sounds like a bright, interested prospect who wanted a quote. I usually begin with a series of questions: is this just for you or for a family, how old are you, do you use tobacco, do you currently have insurance, what medications do you take? Turns out she’s a single, 27 year old non-smoker who cancelled her insurance a few months ago.
And, oh yeah, she’s a diabetic on 2 types of insulin.
So why did she cancel her insurance? Well, she found something “better,” and didn’t realize that it wasn’t what she had thought until she’d paid a non-refundable $189 fee and cancelled her previous insurance.
Now what?
Well, there are very few options left to this young lady, and none of these is going to be as good as the coverage she cancelled. So, Lesson One: NEVER cancel existing coverage until the new plan is approved and you’ve had a chance to look it over. It doesn’t matter WHAT the agent (or sales rep) says, ALWAYS read the actual policy.
The first option that comes to mind is to find a (new) job which offers a group health plan. Her current employer does not. Even that may not be enough: she cancelled her previous plan in October, well past the 63 days which would have provided her creditable coverage.
In Ohio, she could apply for – and be declined – health insurance, and thus become eligible for a state-mandated plan (YMMV). These are expensive and offer mediocre coverage, but they at least offer a true major medical plan.
Third, she could look into a “mini-med” plan. These are often guaranteed issue, and offer not only the provider discounts, but some medical and prescription drug coverage, as well. These benefits are EXTREMELY limited, but they are – arguably – better than nothing.
Which will she choose? I really don’t know. She did ask me to forward the link to the guaranteed issue mini-med plan, so perhaps she’ll choose that route. OTOH, she sounded like she still had a few phone calls left to make. Perhaps surprisingly, I encouraged her to continue making those calls. At this point, she really has nothing to lose (except a little time), and she struck me as someone who won’t be truly convinced until a few more doors are slammed shut. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose.
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