Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Healthier and Wiser: Week 1

Healthier and Wiser

Many people who have health insurance obtain it through an employer. However, there may be times in your life when you are without coverage, facing coverage choices or grappling with retirement health issues. The "Healthier and Wiser" series will address some of the main health care coverage issues women encounter at different stages of their lives. It will point you in the direction of where to go to find more information. It is not intended as legal advice. You can check out the "Healthier and Wiser" series on Wednesdays and Fridays.

This Week: Women Without Coverage

If you, your husband, or both, are working, but your employers do not offer health care coverage, are there affordable coverage options for you?
  • You may be able to get group coverage—and more favorable rates—if you are a member of an organization that offers group health care coverage. This could be a fraternal organization or a professional society, for example.
  • High-deductible plans often offer more affordable monthly premiums and take care of major medical expenses such as hospitalizations, but not routine care. However, you would have to cover expenses that arise before you meet the deductible out of your own pocket.
  • If you can’t enroll in a group plan and have a chronic condition that prevents you from buying an individual plan, you can check with your state’s insurance department to see if you might qualify for plans available for people in your circumstances.
  • If you have a high deductible health insurance plan, you might also consider opening a Health Savings Account (HSA). The HSA is a special tax-advantaged savings account that is used for health care needs. You can deposit before taxes money into HSA accounts and use the tax-free money to pay medical expenses and insurance premiums. This option may be right for you if you have the money to set aside in an HSA, if you can use additional tax deductions, and if you have trouble finding traditional health care coverage that you can afford. (A word of caution: for many people, the tax savings of an HSA will be lower than the out-of-pocket costs of a higher deductible health insurance plan. Talk to a bank or credit union that sponsors HSA plans for more details.)

1 comment:

Hillary said...

Remember, too, that there are state sponsored programs for un- and under-insured low-income women if you are unable to afford private coverage or are "uninsurable" because of a preexisting condition.

Medicaid, for example, provides coverage for women with dependent children (and their children) if they meet income requirements.

The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection program, which provides free pap smears to qualifying women over age 19 and mammograms to women over 40, is another valuable resource for women with no regular access to health care. To find a NBCCEDP clinic in your area and to see if you qualify go to the Center for Disease Control’s website at: www.cdc.gov/cancer/NBCCEDP