The internet is everywhere, you purchase Christmas presents online, this week I purchased my son a Nintendo ds online, yes, you can even purchase health insurance online.
Using the internet to purchase health insurance has some advantages, it might save you some time, you might even be able to compare plans and get estimated premiums.
All of these are advantages of the internet, however, it is not that simple. Usually, the premiums quoted on the internet are preferred pricing, which many people cannot qualify due to medical conditions or height and weight restrictions. They also like to show their lowest priced plans. Some companies will show you their 50%/50% coverage because it will be priced lower than their 80%/20% plan. Others have a higher out of pocket maximum, which means you are paying more at the time of claim.
Insurance companies have to file their rates with the state insurance department so it does not cost you any more to work with a broker, that with the internet. There are several reasons to work with a trusted insurance broker, here are just a few…
A good broker will be able to help you pick the right plan for you and your needs, and can also get you with the right carrier. For example, Celtic Insurance based in the Chicago area is often times the lowest priced plan. Their business model is that Celtic as a company has decided in all of their PPO plans to only pay for two doctor visits per person on the policy per year. Now for most people that is plenty. It is not for everyone. I spoke to a client a week ago who was on my website wanting Celtic because it had the lowest premium. After speaking with her, I found out, she went to visit the doctor over 20 times last year. Celtic was not the carrier for her.
Many carriers will exclude pre-existing conditions for 12 months or more. Aetna will not exclude those conditions if you have had creditable coverage for at least 18 months. They either accept you or they do not. The first question I ask when someone tells me they have a pre-existing condition is “do you want to get them covered?” Dealing with a broker saves you time.
Unfortunately insurance rates go up every year. As a broker I shop for my clients yearly. Sometimes we keep the same carrier. Sometimes we need to change carriers. This process usually begins before the client gets their renewal notice. That gives us plenty of time to find the right carrier for them. Dealing with a broker is more convenient.
A good agent can help an insured in many ways. Policyholders often times do not know how the policy is written so the agent needs to explain at the time of claim. Sometimes claims are denied for an excluded part of the policy or something that there is no coverage for on the policy. Unfortunately sometimes claims are denied for the wrong reason. I have had two cases recently where the clients had major claims within the first 90 days of the new policy. One was investigated for nine months before it was paid. The other one was denied quickly. I had to get involved an tell them why it was a payable claim. They did pay it. The client would have been on her own without a trusted insurance broker. A good broker must provide you with great customer service.
Most brokers have an underwriting guide for each carrier. If you have a medical condition they can verify if they are going to increase your premium or deny you coverage. This can save you a lot of time filling out an application for a plan you might not qualify for.
To my clients I tell them as far as they are concerned I am an unpaid consultant. That may change as the health reform laws have affected the way brokers and agents are compensated but for now, all fees are paid by the insurance carrier.