Shopping for Health Insurance in the Digital Age
By Edward Oberg
With the introduction of legislation such as Obama Care, The Affordable Care Act, and even DOMA, the world of insurance is in flux and shopping for a new policy is more confusing than ever. This leaves those who remain uninsured and those who have found themselves underinsured with the newly imposed restrictions in quite a quandary. Despite the plethora of new questions these changes pose, luckily there are answers to be had.
With the introduction of these government programs come stricter regulations for insurance companies. While this may cause headaches for insurance execs everywhere, luckily it provides some benefits for consumers. Insurance companies are now obliged to participate in the government’s healthcare marketplace. What this means is that all insurance providers in a given state are now required to participate in the exchange, where their rates, coverage, and premiums can be compared side by side. The downside for some seniors is that much of this comparison shopping is done online. Really, though, choosing you insurance on the Internet isn’t that different from a paper application. If you’ve ever filled out your own tax forms by hand, you are more than qualified for shopping on the exchange, which is an easy way to explore your options, supplement your Medicare of Medigap plan, and get income-based rates. All of this happens if 4 easy steps:
1) Create an account: Go to the exchange marketplace and select your state from the dropdown menu. The state in which you qualify for insurance should be the same as your primary residence and/or where you earn the majority of your income. (It is possible to be eligible in more than one state).Then click the button that says "apply online". From there, you will be asked to create a user name, password, and security question.
You may run into issues with it saying that someone else has your username already or your password is not secure. If this happens with the username, simply try a new one or try adding some numbers on the end, for example, GrandpaTom24. In the case of the password, some require a capital letter and/or some symbols (!@#$% etc.) or numbers.
2) Fillout the application: The application is rather simple and only requires enough information to give you accurate quotes. These fields include information regarding the size of your family (those who would be covered), income, current coverage, and a few more items. You may need to have a recent W2 or tax return in front of you if you are unable to estimate these values accurrately. At any point, and particularly if you have questions about multiple tax returns or other technical questions, you can call a help line (1-800-318-2596). Help should be available 24/7 to guide you in making sure everything is filled out and processed correctly.