Kim Lankford
Kimberly Lankford, author of The Insurance Maze, says too many people make life decisions based on access to health insurance. They're afraid to start their own business, retire early or leave a job they hate because they worry that they won't be able to get health insurance on their own or can't afford the premiums.

In most cases, people can find health insurance—and save hundreds of dollars in premiums—if they know how to shop around, present their case and make the most of their state consumer-protection laws. Kimberly shares the top six strategies for finding the right health insurance at the best price…and making sure you get the coverage you deserve.

1. There is one number you need to learn today—and that is the amount of your maximum coverage! These enormous insurance policies are long and confusing. The one thing you need to check right away is your maximum coverage. The higher the number the better, but you want to have maximum coverage somewhere in the range of $3 to $5 million. Anything less than this might leave you exposed to some major bills if a catastrophic illness occurs in your family. You also want to look for any exclusions or low limits for certain procedures or types of coverage.

2. This one may surprise you, but a high deductible is often a very good thing. Raising your deductible to at least $1,100 for individual coverage or $2,200 for families can lower your premiums significantly, and you'll qualify for a health savings account that can lower your current tax bill. So, a high-deductible policy can give you more protection—and save you hundreds of dollars in premiums and in taxes. A health savings account can also give you tax-free money for medical expenses, in addition to lowering your tax bill.

3. Anytime you get a medical bill, do not assume that the insurance company is right about how much you owe. If a bill looks too large, or if you think there is something a little "off" about it…there is a good chance you are right. Between doctors, insurance companies and all the billing involved, there are a lot of errors made on bills because of simple paperwork errors. Go through every bill and if you don't understand it…ask questions! Be relentless. Don't give up! In many cases, a few questions can fix everything.
4. If you learn nothing else today, learn this: Get everything in writing and keep a log. Make a file for your family today and keep records! Keep every medical bill and all paperwork from your insurance company, and get any answers to your questions in writing. Don't waste time on the phone. It can be frustrating, and when you hang up, you may feel better from what they just told you; but unless you have it in writing, it's like it never happened. So get everything in writing and hold onto it. It can be very important if you have a dispute with your insurance company in the future.

5. Don't keep your health insurance on autopilot. Even people who get coverage through their employers need to review their options every year—and heads up, everyone—open enrollment happens in the fall! Employers are raising costs in hidden ways such as by boosting co-payments for doctor's visits and charging three different tiers of costs for prescription drugs. You need to compare your total out-of-pocket costs for your regular doctors' visits and medications. The policy that cost the least in the past may no longer be your best deal. If you've had troubles with your health insurance company during the year, chances are your colleagues have too. Get together and talk to your human resources department. There's strength in numbers. Together you could get some changes.

6. For anyone involved in a dispute with your insurance company, get in touch with your state insurance department. They can be an excellent resource and can let you know what the appeals laws are in your state.
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.


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