Not to scare you and sound like a pessimist, but it's frighteningly true. If you have kids, you can't pass Go if you don't have it in place.
Your Husband's Plan
If you are widowed or divorced, what will your (former) husband's plan provide?
If he worked for a firm with a group medical plan covering at least 20 employees, under the terms of a 1985 federal law known as COBRA, the plan must continue to offer you and any dependents coverage for up to 36 months. You'll be responsible for paying the premiums, though, which for a family plan can go over $500 a month easily.
If he worked for an employer with fewer than 20 employees, you can talk to the department or commission of insurance in your state to see whether you have rights to continuation of coverage under your state's insurance laws. You can learn more about COBRA at the Health Care Financing Administration site, www.hcfa.gov, or at the Department of Labor site: www.dol.gov/dol/pwba. Alternatively, you can switch to your own employer's plan, if there is one. There might be a waiting period before you can enroll. You can also investigate whether an association you belong to offers a plan for members. It could be a local Realtors group or even something as arcane as the American Horse Shows Association.
Buying Your Own Insurance
If worse comes to worst and you have to cough up for your own health insurance, don't freak. True, individual policies are pricey. But this is one expense you can't skimp on.
The aim is to find a comprehensive policy that covers at least 80 percent of your medical and hospital bills once you meet the deductible, anywhere from $100 to $300 a year for an individual or close to $600 for a family policy. The remaining 20 percent will come out of your pocket.
When shopping for a policy:
- Hunt for a policy that caps your yearly out-of-pocket co-payments at $1,000 to $2,000.
- Aim for a lifetime cap of at least $1 million in coverage that is guaranteed to be renewed. That way the insurer can't hike your rates or jettison the policy altogether if you are hit with a serious illness. Of course, expect rates to rise over the years. That's a fact of life.
- Look for good-health breaks, too. For example, non-smokers usually fare better than smokers, and so forth.
- Understand the policy's restrictions. They all have them. And many exclude or cut back on coverage for existing conditions such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis.
Where to Find an Affordable Policy
So how can you track down an affordable policy if you're on your own? First stop: Try your state Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, the largest fee-for-service insurers in the country.
Stop No. 2: Your state insurance department should also be able to provide information on how to find out about any managed care plans (HMOs) in your area that offer individual policies.
Only about one-fourth of HMOs offer plans for individuals, but that number is steadily increasing as HMOs become more prevalent. Your state's insurance department can also help you find a policy even if you do have some health problems that make it tough to get insured. Those are called "high-risk policies."
Stop No. 3: Ask your doctor or area hospital for suggestions.
|Here are two other sources that can help you find a policy and compare rates of various insurers: |