Everyone knows going without health insurance isn’t a great idea. (It’s also technically illegal, so there’s that.) So why does it have to be so insanely confusing? HMOs, PPOs, tier systems…what does this nonsense even mean? Is an insurance agent required? What’s an insurance marketplace? Do not feel bad if it seems overly complicated and confusing. We were confused too, so we put together the list below to break it down.
Before you start shopping, let’s clear up a few things
- What the heck is a health insurance policy, anyway?
Simply put, a health insurance policy is a contract with a health insurance company. You promise to pay a certain monthly amount in exchange for payment or reimbursement for your health care expenses. Insurance usually covers some services in full, like annual health screenings. You’ll have to pay a portion of the cost of medication, tests, procedures, and specialist visits, but not nearly as much as the services would cost without insurance. For more details on plan types and what costs you can expect, check out our previous journal post covering just that.
- What are health marketplaces?
Health marketplaces are state-based websites that provide insurance plan options based on your income and circumstances. If you sign up for insurance through Healthcare.gov or your state’s health insurance marketplace, you can find out whether you’re eligible for savings on your next plan.
Health insurance marketplaces aren’t a bad thing. The only downside of shopping for insurance on a traditional marketplace is that you’ll have to read the details of every plan in your price range to see if the coverage is enough for your needs.It can be an overwhelming experience for a non-professional: to weigh all pros & cons of each plan to make a final decision.
- Why is buying directly from insurance companies a bad idea?
Buying insurance through a marketplace is called buying an “on-exchange” plan. An off-exchange plan is an option, but it’s not a very good one. This happens when you buy a plan directly from an insurance company, like Anthem Blue Cross or UnitedHealth. The benefits will be the same, but because it isn’t processed through a state-based marketplace, you might not receive any savings that you may be eligible for. This might mean to compare simultaneously dozens of plans directly on the insurance company’s website and on the marketplace. Just too much hustle.
- Gold, silver, platinum…what does insurance have to do with metal?
Nothing, really! The metal tiers are simply used to indicate how much coverage a health insurance policy offers. The more “expensive” the metal, the more coverage is included. A gold or platinum plan will pay a higher percentage of your medical expenses than a bronze or silver plan.
Each tier has pros and cons. If you plan on seeing lots of specialists, or if you have several medications that aren’t covered by cheaper plans, a gold or platinum plan is worth the extra expense. If you primarily use your insurance for wellness visits and emergencies, a lower tier plan may be just fine.
- What is a health insurance quote?
Before you sign up for a policy, you’ll get to see a breakdown of what each plan offers and how much it will cost you. This is called a quote. You don’t have to commit to buying insurance to check your options, so compare at least a few before enrolling in a new policy.
Keep in mind: more isn’t always better. I mean, why would you pay for a Netflix family plan if you’re the only one watching, right? In case you go to the doctor frequently, then yes, a more expensive plan makes sense. You pay more upfront but will pay less for the services after. Cheaper plans equate to more financial risk if you do get sick, but for people who are young and healthy, the extra expense of pricier plans may not be worth it.
- Is it easier to shop through an insurance agent?
The short answer: No. At first glance, it sounds like a dream. You talk to a real person, and they tell you exactly what plan you should sign up for. They even handle the signup process for you. What’s the problem? Well, insurance agents don’t work for free. They’re paid a commission by health insurance companies, so they’re likely to push you towards options that will land them a bigger check. Even if it’s a more expensive policy than you need. Hard pass. They also don’t represent every insurance company, so you may miss out on an amazing plan just because your insurance agent doesn’t offer it.
- Where should you purchase a health insurance policy?
Well, let’s look at the options. With an insurance marketplace, you’re eligible for savings, but you also have to sort through all the plans on your own. That takes time. An agent will save you time, but you’ll likely end up spending more money. Then, you have HealthBird. Think of us as your unbiased assistant. We’re like an insurance marketplace that helps narrow down your options for free. You call the final shots; we just do some of the heavy-lifting.
How HealthBird makes it so much easier to shop, buy and track your health coverage
HealthBird doesn’t make decisions for you. Our game-changing Costa AI is designed to assess your needs and sort through available plans for you. It saves tons of time, and with no additional cost. Our Costa AI can:
- Analyze over 100 health insurance plans from the 18 states HealthBird currently covers, saving hours of research time*.
- Eliminate the bias of human insurance agents, who love to upsell customers on plans they don’t really need
- Offer instant quotes to compare. Need more time to think over your options? No worries. You can come back later to review your quotes, and the rates won’t change a bit.
- Ask questions that actually matter. For example, Costa takes into account parameters that are important to you, like the number of doctor visits you usually need each year, or which medications you take. We analyze not one, not two, but 16 different parameters to help you find the perfect plan. Guess how many parameters healthcare.gov considers? Six. If their site challenged us to a fight, we’d stand down, because it just wouldn’t be fair.
- Simplify the entire enrollment process. When you pick a plan, you’ll fill out your information one time. That’s it. No more paperwork. (We hate paperwork, so this is our favorite feature.)
- Make your insurance shopping experience easy and fun. The seamless, modern app design is intuitive and easy enough for your 90-year-old grandpa to use.
What’s the catch? Oh wait, there isn’t one.
HealthBird is like the Match.com of health insurance shopping, minus the awkward first dates. (Plus, we’ll never ghost you!) Instead of getting a policy that gets an agent the biggest check, or wasting hours staring at confusing insurance jargon before giving up and picking a random plan just to be done with it, you’ll get a policy you’ll actually use, for a price you can afford.
Questions? We’re all about helping our members make educated choices about their health, so feel free to reach out if you need additional help via our social media channels or Live chat on the website.. We’ve been there!
*Based on the area code the number of insurance plans analyzed for a certain filter may vary.