Learn more about Sharon on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor
Shopping for health insurance is a lot like online dating. To get a quote, you must first provide a brief profile, including your age, geographic location and perhaps your income.
Then, you have to find the right health plan. But first, you have to know what you want. And like dating or marriage, you need to have an idea of what you will want or need in the future.
You like long walks on the beach and have a sense of humor? That says you’re like your prescription plan, which urges generic medications.
So what’s my advice?
First, get some help or hire the right marriage broker, which in this case is an insurance broker. Having the right information on benefits versus costs is necessary when trying to compare plans. See what works best in your budget and lifestyle. Just as you would introduce a potential suitor to your friends and family and ask what they think, ask them for broker referrals.
Next, talk to your doctor. I’m assuming that you have a doctor whom you value and trust, and that you would want a health plan that allows you to continue with the same providers. As a way to control costs, many new health insurance plans have narrowed the pool of providers in their networks. And many plans have cut out-of-network benefits, so this means that you will have to find a new doctor, or face paying with cash to continue with your existing provider.
Once you make the commitment to start a new relationship with an insurance company, understanding and learning what is, and isn’t, covered is important because you can’t cancel or change your plan until the next open enrollment period.
You know the old adage that you get what you pay for? It’s no different in health care. If you want the flexibility to choose providers, and at the same time have the most comprehensive benefits, it will cost you.
It is no wonder that people are confused and feeling overwhelmed by their health insurance options. They have to swallow the bitter pill that health care will cost more, and they might get less.
How do you cope with lowered expectations? Create a list of your deal-breakers versus must- have features. Do you want kids? Will your plan be geographically desirable? Are you looking for long-term stability? Are you just looking to have fun in the moment, and aren’t too concerned about risks 20 years from now?
The same with dating, finding the right health insurance plan takes time. Evaluate your options. Investigate the features and qualities you’re willing to accept. Finally, like dating, I recommend a two-drink maximum to avoid alcohol potentially clouding your judgment. And if you get lucky, maybe the insurance agent or broker you find will be single and cute. You never know.