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Education key to buying health-care plan

On Feb. 17 President Barack Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus package called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. This includes a health-care stimulus package. In this health-care stimulus package there are incentives for doctors and hospital to adopt electronic health records that could save as much as $77 billion.

Other provisions offer billions in federal funding for state Medicaid program and federal money to pay 65 percent of insurance premiums for laid-off workers. This road is long and will not happen overnight. What does that mean to you as a consumer right now buying health insurance? What can you do to make sure you are making the right decision for you and your family? You need to educate yourself about the available plans and set expectations for yourself.

There are basically two types of health insurance: group and individual. Group insurance can be established for companies that have two or more employees. Group insurance is guaranteed issued. So, regardless of your health condition, you and your employees are assured full coverage. There are other rules for qualifying. You must have 75 percent participation in the plan and the employer must pay for at least 50 percent of the employee’s single premium. If you think group insurance is correct for your business, make sure you obtain quotes from multiple insurance companies. There are several major players in the group market and your broker should be able to obtain quotes from all of them. Analyzing different quotes will enable you to find a plan that best fits your needs.

If group insurance is too expensive, then you have the choice of individual coverage. Individual insurance is usually much more affordable and flexible. However, the big challenge with individual health insurance is that you must go through an underwriting process. You will need to fill out an application for the insurance company and answer questions about history and current condition of your health.

Unlike group insurance, individual insurance is not guaranteed issued. The insurance company does not have to accept you.

When looking at family health-care options, you need so set expectations.

If you are looking for low-cost family health plans you end up saving money but might lose the comprehensive coverage.

If you want to look for family coverage with comprehensive coverage, you need to expect to pay more.

Use a broker when buying health insurance. This will keep your expectations in check.

Sometimes consumers think they can just get online and buy something cheap only to find out at the time of need it is not what they are looking for.

A broker can help you shop the plans and make sure you have the correct coverage for you and your family.

No one knows for sure if the stimulus package will work.

Many things need to come into place at the right time and moment.

These are tough times we are in and everybody needs to look at things before they purchase. Health insurance is no different.

If you educate yourself and set reasonable expectations, buying health insurance will not be as frustrating.

Mike Miele, a benefits and health insurance specialist for MGA Insurance in Lakewood Ranch, can be reached at (941) 907-3828.

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