These days, the best health insurance companies have to stay on their toes in order to keep a competitive edge. Healthcare reform has introduced a whole new world of regulations and red tape.Around 31 million people were underinsured in 2014, however, that's gradually changing and with the new system comes an increased need for guidance in choosing the best medical insurance.
When you compare health plans, pay attention to things like deductibles, co-pays, conditions covered, and customer service responsiveness. Also, don't forget to take into account the health insurance company's financial rating, depth of coverage, and website's user-friendliness as these are going to be important factors for most people who need insurance.
Best Health Insurance Companies: What to Consider
Before delving into my review of the top 5 health insurance companies, you should learn the basics of this often complex topic. Not only do health care plans deviate wildly from one another in terms of cost and eligibility, policies and coverage types generally vary by insurer, region and medical condition as well.
"Be careful when looking at the deductible as there are many things to consider such as how often you visit the doctor, how big your family is and how many, if any, prescriptions you have."
Below are some terms with which you should become familiar as you read my review:
1. Health Insurance Deductible
Simply put, a deductible is money you spend out of pocket before the insurance company kicks in and reimburses you (or pays the provider directly) for expenses such as hospital visits, prescriptions and other routine costs. With a high deductible, you will enjoy a lower premium, but you will share more of the burden if you have to visit the doctor or hospital, at least at first.
Be careful when looking at the deductible as there are many things to consider such as how often you visit the doctor, how big your family is and how many, if any, prescriptions you have. Not only that, if you don't have an emergency fund, you may want to shy away from high deductibles as one incident can put a huge dent in your personal finances. According to a survey done by NPR and two other foundations, more than one-fourth of Americans have had serious financial troubles due to health care expenses. The more comprehensive the coverage, the lower the chances of a surprise event that empties your bank account.
2. Family Healthcare Insurance
With family healthcare insurance, you and your family will all enjoy coverage. It's possible to have coverage via private health insurance or employee-sponsored programs. Married people who both have health insurance plans through their employers should compare health insurance plans as it may be better to go with one plan over another. This is because some family plans are great, while others offer very little. It's best to ensure you're choosing the option that gives your family the most coverage for the lowest premium contribution.
3. Employer Health Insurance
If you have a typical 9-5 job, you can usually get employer health insurance. Usually, premiums are affordable as the company negotiates rates, and you can have money taken out of your check every pay period. Be prepared, however, as premiums have been on an upward trend, rising from an annual average of $5791 for family coverage in 1999, to $17,545 for a family health care plan in 2015. This is according to the Kaiser/HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits, as reported by The Fiscal Times, and experts expect the trend to continue.
When employed and provided health insurance, one should also be careful as sometimes the coverage is minimal. If what your employer offers is a cheap health care plan, it's wise to look at supplemental insurance, especially if you already have a health condition.
4. Universal Health Insurance
In many countries, such as Canada, people have universal health insurance, which means they are covered in case anything happens. While not quite as simple as it sounds, that is the basic idea as people with universal health insurance usually avoid financial turmoil when sick or injured, no matter how seriously. Universal health care covers everyone, however some people may want more if they are looking to have certain elective surgeries as some countries only cover the basics.
Getting the Best Health Insurance via Exchanges
With the rollout of the Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare") health insurance exchanges, your choices may vary based on the state you reside in. With that being said, it's important to check the limitations in your state before electing to purchase additional coverage.
If you're concerned that the health care plan you purchase won't meet the minimum essential benefits requirement, you can rest assured that all plans sold since 2014 - including those purchased through the Exchange - qualify to satisfy the required coverage under the new laws.
Financial Help with the Best Health Insurance Companies
If you need help finding affordable health care plans, check with the Health Insurance Marketplace to find out if you or your family members qualify for a subsidy to purchase coverage. Many families with moderate income who were on their own before now fall under the guidelines for cheap health insurance coverage. These subsidies typically come in the form of what's called a premium tax credit. This is a tax credit which you can either choose to have directly paid to your insurance carrier or refunded to you when you file your taxes. Either way, for those who qualify the credit can significantly offset the cost of medical insurance plans.
The Best Health Insurance Companies
Humana Health Insurance
- High BBB rating
- Trusted reputation
- 24/7 customer service
- Easy site navigation
- Plenty of information about health insurance
- No customer service chat support
If you live a healthy lifestyle, Humana should be on your short list of companies to check out. With Humana, you can connect with the company 24/7 via phone, chat and email. If you want to learn how to eat better or how to prevent common illnesses, Humana is the company for you as it provides plenty of resources for its patients.
If you love technology and don't like waiting on the phone and want access at your fingertips, you are in luck as the company has the Humana App, which allows you to get in contact, check out your health information and even verify information or set appointments. I found that the only major downside is that Humana is not available everywhere; it's only available in 22 states. If you aren't located in one of those states, however,, you have other solid options on my list of the best medical insurance companies.
Aetna Health Insurance
- Affordable premiums
- Wide range of plans
- Live chat features
- Good customer service
- No short term plans
There are some insurance companies that are less than a decade old, and that can be scary when you are talking about your health and well-being. With Aetna, there is nothing to fear as the company has been around since 1890, so it knows a two or thing about providing quality service to a variety of clients. Whether you're in the market for the best health insurance for self employed people, or trying to decide among your employer's offerings, Aetna is qualified to provide you with appropriate options.
They are one of the more inexpensive providers, giving consumers an option with affordable prices, solid service and years of experience. The only downside is that there are not a lot of plans for people over 55, but if you are young and healthy, you can get a quality plan for a much lower price than when compared to the competition.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance
- Online account management
- 24/7 customer service
- Some states with high BBB rating
- Affordable premiums; acceptable value for price
- Fast claims processing
- Potentially high premiums, depending on location and health
- Inconsistent products/service due to independent member organizations
After its 1982 merger with the Blue Cross Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield has become a force to be reckoned with, boasting over 100 million satisfied clients. While there are some companies out there that cater to specific needs and wants, Blue Cross Blue Shield is not one of them as it provides service to nearly everyone in need.
Whether you are over 55 and looking for a health care plan or young with children, shopping for affordable family health insurance plans, you will not have a hard time finding a well-priced plan that covers your needs. With a great website, and an FAQ that gives you all the information you would ever need, my research found that Blue Cross Blue Shield is ideal if you want an affordable plan but don't want to skimp on service or quality.
United Healthcare Health Insurance
- Good customer service
- Excellent informational resources
- Easy sign-up and quotes
- No live chat option
With 70 million clients, the company has obviously done something right over the years. The provider claims that it offers a simpler solution for clients. While a big claim, it's pretty easy to see why United Healthcare is so confident. Much like with Humana, United Healthcare tries to take a proactive approach and teach its patients how to live longer, happier and higher quality lives.
By providing information on how to eat healthier and exercise, United Healthcare does two things; it saves money for its customers who don't need to spend money on even more healthcare; it also helps clients live a higher quality of life. Those factors combined with top-notch customer service and easy to understand plans put United Healthcare on my list of the best health insurance options.
Kaiser Permanente Health Insurance
- Online account management
- Excellent customer service
- Fast claims processing
- Variety of medical care provided
- Strong financial rating
- Not available in all 50 states
- Plan prices are high
- No short-term plans available
If you are in the hunt for a short-term plan, Kaiser Permanente is not the company you should pick. On the other hand, if you are looking to develop a decent and long-term relationship with a provider, Kaiser Permanente is a great choice. This is one provider that works with people to develop a plan. For starters, when you are signing up for plans or just browsing, if you need help at any moment, all you have to do is click the live chat button.
With plenty of self-service options, you can take care of minor issues over the Internet or through the automated phone system. Don't worry; customer service reps are around 24/7 to help you with any serious issues. Again, if you are looking to get a plan, whether basic or more in-depth, you can't go wrong with this well-known and respected name.
Which is the Best Health Insurance Company?
The more appropriate question is "Which health insurance is best for me?" While there are a lot of good companies out there, not all of them are right for everyone. If you're having trouble deciding which of the top rated health insurance companies is for you, here are a few questions that can help you narrow down your choices.
Is Your Doctor in the Network?
If you have a favorite physician, or someone you have been seeing for a long time, check to see if they are in your network. Each health insurance plan has a different network of providers, so you will want to see if your preferred provider is covered in that group. In order for your insurance to cover the cost of visits, your physician will need to be within the network of your health plan.
Standard health plans cover doctor's visits and typical health appointments. But are you interested in getting other alternative health services, like massage, acupuncture, or naturopathy? If you are, look for a plan that covers such items. Not all plans will cover these alternative treatments, but if it is something you find value in, then make sure it's covered by your plan.
Location of Facilities
Another thing that is often overlooked when choosing a plan is the location of facilities. Is your local doctor or hospital nearby, or do you have to drive thirty minutes to get there? It's important to consider what facilities are available to you and where they are located. When you are sick, or if an emergency occurs, having something nearby will be a huge benefit.
When choosing a health plan, do some research regarding the reputation of your health care provider. Do they have great customer service? Are they a trusted source in the community? Do they provide helpful information and put your health as their number one priority? Start looking into various health plans and see what is the best fit for you.
While choosing a health insurance plan can be a daunting task, use these tips to simplify the process and keep your needs at the forefront of your decision. Your health insurance plan is a vital force in protecting you during times of sickness, so choose wisely and make sure you know the ins and outs of your plan.
Customer service, legitimacy, and company reputation are three important factors to consider when doing business with any of the companies reviewed in this article. Head over to the American Customer Satisfaction Index for a numerical analysis of customer satisfaction within the health insurance industry.
How to Save With the Best Medical Insurance Companies
In addition to doing a thorough health insurance comparison and choosing a plan that meets your needs and your budget, there are other things you can do to impact your costs in the long run.
How can you make healthy living cheaper?
With regards to health, the best defense is a good offense.You can save a lot of money, not to mention avoid painful hospital visits, if you take a proactive approach to your health and wellbeing. For starters, you should know that a good diet is your ally. By filling up on vegetables and healthy grains, along with sparse servings of meat, you can keep your weight and cholesterol in check. If you can, you should start eating organic, real food like that your grandparents ate. This can help you can avoid many long-term health problems.
Fitness is important too, and there plenty of apps to check out if you want to track your progress. With apps like Couch 2 5K, you can get the motivation needed to start running. If you aren't a runner, there are apps that will track other aspects of your fitness such as a pedometer for hiking. There are other less high-tech options, and you can sign up for free fitness classes in your area. With the one-two punch of a healthy diet plus exercise, you can save money on insurance and avoid the doctor to boot.
How can you save money on health insurance?
If you have a family, or you are just taking care of yourself, you no doubt want to save on health insurance. One way to save some cash is to use a health savings account, or HSA. Much like a retirement account, an HSA allows you to contribute pre-tax dollars into it. Then you can use the money to pay for anything from medicine to routine surgical procedures.
How a HSA Works with the Best Health Care Plans
As with all aspects of a complete health insurance comparison, there are some things you need to know if you want to take advantage of a Health Savings Account.
...approximately two-thirds of employers that offer an HSA or HRA (Health Reimbursement Arrangement) make some contribution to their employees' accounts.
Why a HSA?
Aside from having money saved up to help cover healthcare costs, you also get a few tax breaks.
Without an HSA your medical expenses are not tax deductible unless they exceed 7.5% of your annual gross income - which is (hopefully) unlikely for most of us. However, the money you invest in an HSA and later use for qualified healthcare expenses is tax-free.
Furthermore, according to the IRS, the contributions you make to an HSA are 100% deductible even if you don't itemize your deductions on a Form 1040. Additionally, any interest earned in an HSA is tax-free and does not need to be reported to the IRS.
That's a triple tax benefit just for having an HSA!
Can I get a tax break for any medical expense?
In order to get a tax break the money in your HSA must be used for qualified medical expenses.
For example, any over-the-counter drugs (unless prescribed by a doctor) are not considered tax deductible. Something like insulin, on the other hand, can be deducted.
What is considered a "qualified" medical expense?
You can use your HSA account for just about any medical expense including prescription medication, surgeries, ER visits, doctor's appointments, dental costs, mental health and birth control.
Those items that are not considered qualified expenses include over-the-counter medications, health expenses accrued outside of the U.S. and non-medically necessary procedures like elective cosmetic surgery.
How Do I Get the Money From a HSA?
Upon opening your account and making a contribution you will receive a debit card and checks linked to your HSA. These can be used to be cover qualified healthcare expenses.
How Much Can I Contribute to a HSA?
Just like a 401k or an IRA, there are limits to what you can contribute annually to a HSA.
As of 2016 an individual can contribute up to $3,300 to their HSA whereas a family can contribute up to $6,750. HSA holders who are over age 55 get an extra $1,000. It's important to note that these limits apply to the combined contributions of you and your employer together. According to the Society for Human Resource Management approximately two-thirds of employers that offer an HSA or HRA (Health Reimbursement Arrangement) make some contribution to their employees' accounts.
If you exceed these limits you are subject to a 6% tax penalty, plus you must pay income tax on the excess contributed amount.
Overall, HSA is a good idea to help cover medical costs. The tax breaks alone make it something worth looking into.
To qualify, you must have a high-deductible plan, which is $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family. If you are interested, you should consult your HR department to get started. Or, if you are self-employed, you can contact your insurance company directly. You must know that if you don't use it, you can lose the money in the HSA, so it's wise to plan accordingly. Though, if you anticipate having any leftover money, you can buy medicine that you or your family will need in the near future.
Best Health Insurance Companies Recap
When shopping for health insurance, you have some responsibility to limit access to your personal information, and this is why you don't want to sign up for any medical coverage plan out there.
Be cautious in your selection and carefully screen companies and plans in which you want to enroll. The most reputable health insurance companies typically have impeccable customer service, lots of good information on their website, and various products and services to help you manage your health more effectively.
If your health insurance plan doesn't include dental care, check out the best dental insurance to find coverage that fits your needs and your budget. While you're doing a health insurance comparison it's also smart to take the time to look at the best term life insurance companies.