Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Much Ado About, Well, Not Much

Back in the day, now-ubiquitous TV pitch man Billy Mays introduced us to the wonders of OxyClean. I must admit, it's one of my favorite products: it's reasonably priced, and it really works. The question is, does that kind of success transfer to less tangible products, such as health insurance?
Recently, the bearded wonder became the official spokeman for something called "iCan Benefit," a website that purports to offer great deals on health insurance. They actually offer two "flavors:" a guaranteed issue, limited benefit (mini-med) plan and a "regular" (i.e. underwritten) major medical plan.
Neither is particularly special; the mini-med plan seems to have pretty much all the features of any of its ilk, and is priced accordingly. That is, it's competitive but not particularly so.
The major med plan is underwritten by Assurant, which is a very decent carrier, with good service and decent products. I haven't been especially impressed with their underwriting or pricing (although they do at least try to offer less generic products). Keep in mind, though, that this is not a group plan, which means that full underwriting applies.
What does that mean, exactly?
Simply this: you'll still need to complete a full application, disclosing your medical history, current problems and any med's you're on (or have been on recently). And Assurant can exclude conditions or med's, or even turn you down altogether. Of course, that's typical of the individual major med market, but it's important to remember that joining iCan doesn't buy you an underwriting (or pricing) break.
It does mean that you'll pay an extra association fee, though.
iCan suggests that "You can think of us like a close friend who knows all about health insurance." Not a bad pitch: after all, we often suggest that you ask friends, neighbors, and the like for a referral to a good agent. But that doesn't mean that these folks are ipso facto experts on insurance; merely that they've had good experience with a particular agent or carrier.
Bottom line: seek out a professional, independent agent with at least 5 years of relevant experience, and who represents more than just the one company.
You'll be glad you did, and it'll give you time to check out Billy's other fine products.
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