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Options exist for health insurance

Can there be any more doom and gloom in our lives? Every day we see more and more companies laying off employees or going out of business. The Dow Jones index continues to fall, 401(k)’s are losing money and the spendable dollar is disappearing. Where do we save and what should we do?

Our new president, Senate and Congress have started the process that they hope will help turn around our country’s economic woes. With a huge stimulus package beginning to be distributed, you might say, “All is going to be fine.” But when?

I believe that we all know that this is going to take some time. We did not get in this mess overnight and it will not rectify itself overnight. So, what do we do in the meantime? Where do we save money? What do we give up or keep?

We know that in the economic stimulus package there are allocations for addressing the 43 million-plus people who do not have health insurance. What about those of us who do have health insurance and are paying through the nose for it? What about our employers who are doing their best to provide quality benefits to their employees, but the premiums are reaching astronomical levels? Most employers are doing all they can to try to keep benefits for their employees. What can we do and what can they do?

Employers and individuals are searching for ways to save on their premiums for health insurance. It is our job as independent agents to do our due diligence for our clients, to search out the best way to save premium dollars and still provide good health insurance options.

Some of the ways this is done is by increasing the deductibles and raising co-payments for doctor visits and prescription drugs. In some cases, the only alternative is to go with stripped-down plans that pay for just basic care. While this is not the avenue most employers or individuals want to go, it is still better that not having any coverage at all.

Another avenue to consider is to look at Health Savings Accounts. These are paired with high-deductible plans that can reduce your premiums. The accounts allow you to set up a savings account alongside a health plan into which you can put your premium savings.

These accounts earn interest just like a regular savings account, but on a tax-deferred basis. You have access to those dollars for your health care. Any money that is spent out of these accounts for a qualified health expense is tax-free. The other great benefit is that if you do not use the money and just let it grow, you do not lose it.

While there is a lot more to Health Savings Accounts, this is just a brief overview. To explore all of your options, contact your local independent insurance agent or agency, and ask about all your options. Being without health insurance should be an absolute final option.

Things will get better eventually, but there are steps you can take while you are waiting on those changes to happen. Tough times bring about tough choices.

Kim Cummins, the life and health specialist for Des Champs & Gregory, Inc., can be reached at (941) 748-1812 or by e-mail at kcummins@deschampsgregory.com.

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