Googling Is a Risky Way to Shop for Health Insurance
Open enrollment for Obamacare is from November 1 to January 15, unless the government decides to extend it. Medicare open enrollment will end on December 7.
There are many dangers of going to Uncle Google for your health insurance, and I am going to go over a few things you need to watch out for if you decide to take that route.
I will also share what I believe is the best way to shop for health insurance. So let’s get started.
It is said that if you want to bury a secret, the safest place would be on the second or third page of Google because very few people ever go past the first page. And who is usually on the first page of any search? It’s usually the paid advertisers or sometimes some clever marketing companies who know how to do search engine optimization and also may have a lead generation site.
If you have ever made a mistake of putting your name and number on any of those sites, you may have found your phone ringing off the hook with different agents trying to sell you their plans. With all due respect to those agents, who are only trying to make a living and in some cases may have a good health plan to offer you. But that is not where you want to start your search.
You need to realize that right now there are many types of individual health plans including association plans, short term plans, hospital surgical plans, scheduled benefit plans, health share ministry plans, and of course the Obamacare plans which are offered through the health insurance marketplace in most states. All these plans come with some pros and cons, but the best place to start would be to find a health insurance agent or broker who represents many different insurance companies on and off the exchanges and can help you choose the right plan. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to mess it up if you try to do it yourself— and what you don’t know can really hurt you.
It’s a complicated process to try and do it yourself because if you don’t know all of the rules, you can disqualify yourself from potential savings from the tax credits under Obamacare or choose a health plan that very few doctors accept in your area.
The second place people often go to is directly to an insurance company. It seems like a good idea, but think about it. If you called Company A, would they recommend any of the plans of their competitors? Probably not. That’s not what they are paid to do. They can only tell you about their products, but an independent who represents most of the companies can make recommendations based on your specific needs.
The third place people often go to for their health insurance is directly to the health insurance marketplace. And if you have ever done that, you know how frustrating that can be with the long waiting time and an application process that seems to take forever.
Now think about this. How is the person working at the health insurance marketplace going to know about all of the health plans in all of the states where they serve? I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and though we focus primarily on Georgia, even we struggle to keep up with all the changes. Sometimes those changes include negotiations with hospitals, doctor groups, and insurance companies. Plus, once your enrollment is done, there is no way for you to contact that enrollment agent again with any questions. You are on your own!
Remember how I said people rarely go to the second page of Google?
Well, insurance companies have also realized this little secret and many companies intentionally load up their cheapest plans to show up on the first page of the search results, and many times these are newer companies with their smallest networks of doctors and hospitals. Last open enrollment, some of the plans and companies we had recommended were on the fourth and fifth page of Google because we also had many new insurance companies in the Georgia marketplace. Since they haven’t had a chance to build up their networks of doctors and hospitals, it could be a problem for individuals who may have chronic health conditions and need to make sure their doctors and prescriptions are covered by that plan. For healthy individuals who rarely go to the doctor, that may not be as important.
An experienced agent can help you cut through the clutter and make it easier for you. Often, you may have to upload immigration verification and income verification documents to the health insurance marketplace. Your agent can also help you do that or show you how to do it.
Most of us have a primary care doctor, a dentist, a CPA, and a trusted mechanic. Why not develop a relationship with a good health insurance agent who can guide you through this process once a year? Keep in mind that some of the insurance premiums we pay nowadays are as high as mortgage payments. And It doesn’t look like this is going to get any easier anytime soon.
So how do you find an experienced agent? Well, if you are going to google, one suggestion would be to search for “health insurance agent near me” and check out the online review. Visit their website to get a feel for their business and to find out how long they have been in practice. The idea is to find someone who has been in the business for several years, represents many companies on and off exchange, and is available to help you through this process. This is true for Medicare plan selections as well. You want an agent who represents many companies and can help you make sure your docs and prescriptions are covered in your plan.
There are still no guarantees even when working with qualified agents because we are all fallible at some level, but this way you are at least making a more deliberate decision. One of the better ways to find an agent in your area is simply ask your family and friends for recommendations. Asking friends on social media is another way to get information and recommendations. Our firm currently focuses only on individual health insurance and Medicare plans in Georgia and the surrounding states. If we can be of any assistance, please feel free to reach out to us.
Moneywise is hosted by Rajesh Jyotishi with Shalin Financial Services, Inc.
Rajesh Jyotishi is a registered representative of Dempsey Lord Smith, LLC, which is a registered broker-dealer and a member of FINRA/SIPC. Advisory Services are offered through Dempsey Lord Smith, LLC.
Rajesh has been a resident of Atlanta since 1975 and in the financial services industry since 1991. For questions, he can be reached at 770-884-8175 or at RJ@shalinfinancial.com.
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