In recent years filled with health reform and the Affordable Care Act news, health insurance companies have experienced a lot of negative press. Despite the health and financial protection health insurance offers, a majority of consumers do not trust their health insurer.
Individuals and families who purchase their own major medical health insurance plans know selecting a carrier and a plan are not easy decisions. Buying health insurance can feel risky. Will you be satisfied with your coverage? Will you be surprised with hidden costs or denied claims? Is the carrier financially stable?
Many health insurance carriers that offer individual major medical plans exist in the marketplace. You may recognize a handful from national advertising campaigns and news headlines. Recognition and size do not necessarily translate into quality coverage. Many less widely known small and mid-size carriers offer affordable, reliable coverage.
It’s important to do your research. You want to know your claims will be paid without hassle or delay. Making the wrong choice can be frustrating and costly. Here are five resources for investigating carriers and getting a feel for their reliability and fit when it comes to your health insurance needs.
1. Better Business Bureau
The BBB, as its known, is a nonprofit organization with no government affiliations and has been around for more than 100 years. It provides free business reliability reviews that include a graded rating, whether or not the business is accredited with the BBB, reasons for the rating received including a complaints summery, government actions involving the company, an advertising review, and any other necessary information to helpconsumers make informed decisions.
To check a carrier’s business reliability reviews, visit bbb.org and the “Find Business Reviews” page for consumers. Enter the carrier’s name to bring up the associated BBB file. This service is free.
2. A.M. Best Rating
A.M. Best is an independent insurance industry credit rating agency that has been around since 1906. Best’s Financial Strength Rating, “is an independent opinion of an insurer’s financial strength and ability to meet its ongoing insurance policy and contract obligations.” The scale ranges from A++ (Superior) to S (Suspended), and the ratings help consumers get a feel for the carrier’s stability or vulnerability. Each Financial Stability Rating also includes an outlook for the next 12 to 36 months. Look for a carrier’s A.M. Best rating on its website or marketing materials, or visit A.M. Best’s Rating Center and enter the carrier’s name. This services is free.
Click here for the “Guide to Best’s Financial Strength Ratings.”
3. Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is another independent, nonprofit organization that advocates for consumers. While its focus is broad and not solely dedicated to health insurance, Consumer Reports does provide health insurance rankings by state. A subscription is required.
4. Friends and family
Ask around. Do you know anyone who purchases health insurance independently? If so, ask what carriers they have used in the past, who they use now and why. Find out if their plan needs are or have been similar to those of you and your family. For instance, if you are healthy and know you will need good maternity coverage, your needs and experience with a carrier may vary from those of a family member with heart disease. Are they satisfied with the plan, the company ? Have they encountered problems with claims? Did things look one way on paper and turn out another way in real life?
If you’ve had employer-sponsored health insurance coverage and were satisfied with the carrier that provided it, you may also want to see if that carrier sells an individual plan.
Talking to an insurance agent is also an option; however, it is important to understand that they only sell plans for select carriers. That means they may not be familiar with others and they may also have a financial interest in steering you toward the carriers with which they are affiliated.
You may also contact carriers directly. IHC Specialty Benefits’ knowledgeable, friendly health insurance representatives are also available by phone and email to answer questions you may have about obtaining the right coverage for you and your family.