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Jim, I Don't Have Access to Company Benefits And Need To Buy Health Insurance On My Own. I Can't Afford It, What Are Your Suggestions?

Finding yourself without company provided health insurance benefits these days is a very difficult predicament, but don’t panic you do have options.  You are too young for medicare and have too much money for medicaid, so what can you do?  Health insurance is becoming so expensive that some people are even marrying for it, no kidding! Read this news story – Marrying For Health Insurance

If You Recently Discontinued Employment…
You may qualify for a continuation of your existing insurance coverage through COBRA.  Under Cobra, you will be allowed to continue your current health insurance coverage at your expense.  The major benefit here is that you will still be enjoying most likely a lower rate than you would be able to obtain on your own, and you can not be turned down due to a pre-existing medical condition.  COBRA is not a permanent solution as you will be limited to benefiting from this program for only about 18 months unless you have a disability.

If You Are Self Employed
Self employed individuals must be creative to come up with a reasonable way to buy health insurance that is affordable.  The first thing you need to do is to find out if there is a trade association you can affiliate with to obtain insurance at group rates (Realtor Association, Musicians Union, etc…).  There are a variety of associations that are related to specific industries, or you can join a more generic association like the National Association For The Self Employed which has a group health insurance plan.  You can do a more comprehensive search of potential associations that may offer group health insurance by going to Weddles and doing a search.

Tip:  If you are unemployed, you can become self employed by doing as little as purchasing a business license.  I am not suggesting that you misrepresent your status, but becoming a freelance consultant while unemployed may be a way to pay the bills, as well as qualify for a self employed insurance plan.  In many states there is a waiting period that you must satisfy to be eligible as legitimately self employed, so get your business license as soon as possible.

Finding a knowledgeable local insurance agent is an important part of your health insurance search.  Many states have now implemented programs for self employed individuals to be able to buy health insurance within a group (risk pools).  I have made reference to the term group a couple of times now, so let me explain why this is so crucial.  Buying health insurance individually has some major disadvantages.  First, you will be paying more than if you were purchasing as a part of a group.  Secondly, you will be much more likely to be accepted if you have a significant pre-existing medical issue.  Lastly, your coverage can be canceled much more easily than if you are part of a group or pool.

What programs does your state offer for the uninsured?  Here is a great resource:

Health Insurance Resource Center

Interesting Fact: Once I had a client that had a child with significant medical issues.  This was the most important consideration in her life.  After reviewing what health insurance programs were available in her state and a few others, she moved just to be able to tap into a better program in another state!  This was not really as crazy of a decision as it might seem, especially when considering her savings of tens of thousands of dollars each year in medical bills.  Sometimes you have to change ball parks if you want a better set of rules to play by. 

Catastrophic Medical Coverage Is Your Main Objective

While we all love the comprehensive medical plans that cover everything from eyeglasses to teeth cleaning and prescription drugs, these kinds of plans are most likely going to be prohibitively expensive to purchase on your own.  What most people really need is a medical insurance policy that will kick in once you reach say $10,000 in expenses in a given year.  These kinds of plans require that you pay for your own routine medical appointments, prescriptions, etc…  You are also on the hook for the first $10,000 of cost should you have a major medical incident, such as surgery.


When I present this concept in my seminars, it does not usually get a very warm reception.  Remember, the key here is to have a safety net in place that will prevent you from being wiped out financially if something major arises.  This is the basic minimum protection you should have.  If you are able to obtain something with more bells and whistles that you can afford, that much the better.  The point here is to establish a stop-loss of $10,000 in a worst case scenario.  $10,000 is a lot of money, but should not be enough to cause you to end up in bankruptcy.  Again, if you can afford to buy a policy with a stop-loss of $5,000 or even $2,500 that is even better.

Health Insurance For Your Kids
There are now a number of methods by which you can get health insurance for your children.  Many states have programs available to parents of uninsured children.  Although you will have to qualify, based on your income, most middle class homes are able to tap into these programs.  Insure Kids Now has a list of all state health insurance plans and complete details on who to contact in your state to get more details.  Ask at your child's school, and if you have a child in college ask about their programs.  Insuring kids these days is very politically popular and there are a wide variety of programs available.

Christian Medical Expense Sharing Alternatives
You may have heard of the various Christian organizations now providing informal protection to participants by pooling together monthly contributions to help out individual members with medical expenses.  Here are a couple to look at:


Christian Care Ministry

These organization are very interesting and innovative (called medi-share plans), but I can not suggest this as a viable alternative to health insurance.  If you have a $1,000,000 medical bill you may end up in bankruptcy if the medi-share you were counting on can not cover your bill.  This is why I go back to my bottom line suggestion of carrying at least a major medical plan if that is all you can afford.

Good Options For Online Shopping of Individual Policies:

e Health Insurance

Go Health

Learning To Live With Just A Major Medical Plan
You need to find a good local walk-in clinic that you can go to for day to day minor issues.  Additionally, you should shop around and find a family doctor that is affordable.  Remember, the first $5,000 to $10,000 is on you so you need to be price conscious.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount when you pay cash for your doctor visits.  Doctors will lower their prices when a patient can pay right way and when they understand that there is no health insurance company to bill.  You should request that your doctor assist you with generic alternatives for any prescriptions you need.  Last but not least, tap into the Wal-Mart $4 prescription program, which is the best way to get your pharmaceuticals for less than the cost of a drive-thru lunch.

Agree or disagree, have something to add?  Click on comments below.

Helping you make the most of God’s money!

James L. Paris
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