Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 13, 2020

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With the new mandate coming that will require many people to purchase their own health insurance, the obvious choice for many people is to get an individual policy. There is a wide array of good insurance websites that offer a wealth of information for many of your options, but which plan should you choose?

You should pick which plan makes the most sense for you based on what you need, what you can afford, and common sense. Just because a plan has a $15 office co-pay in it doesn’t make it a better plan, it just makes it more expensive than a comparable plan than one without it.

Here are some things you can do to help cut your expenses on individual health insurance.

1) Shop. Most states have multiple carriers offering multiple plans. Do some research online and see what all is available. Online quotes are great, but they are not underwritten. You’ll need to fill out a full application in order to sign on the bottom line. The application process for individual plans can be a bit time consuming, so be patient and don’t get frustrated if you have to fill out any extra paperwork or questionnaires from the insurance company.

2) Buy only what you need. Sure, your neighbor may have a plan through work that covers all kinds of things: $5 allergy shots, free preventive care (checkups, screenings, etc. ), a really low deductible and maybe even a nice drug card. But do you really need all that? Does anyone? Remember, you’re paying for that plan every month, whether or not you use it. Plus, with many generics being offered for $4 at places like Target and Walmart, does it make sense to even have a drug card on your plan? Don’t forget to look at what your Rx costs will be. Ask for a formulary, too, so you know what drugs are covered and how.

3) In line with #2, buy as high of a deductible plan as you can. Once you’ve picked out a handful of plans that you like, do some math. Does it make sense financially? Plan A might cost $100 a month, but has a $1,000 deductible. Your best case here is $1,200 a year out of your pocket, and your worst case is $2,200 out of your pocket. Plan B might cost $70 a month and have a $5,000 deductible. Your best case here is $840 out of your pocket, and your worst case is $5,840 out of your pocket. Between those two plans, A costs more up front, but B has more risk in the event of something serious happening. Which option you pick is up to you, but know what you are getting for your money and where your risks lie.

4) Cover the known gaps. If you buy a high deductible plan and are worried about accidents, certain dreaded diseases like cancer or heart disease, buy an indemnity plan to help cover those expenses. They cost pennies on the dollar for what they’re worth. Everyone’s usually heard of AFLAC, yes? This is what they provide, indemnity plans. These plans pay cash to you in the event of a covered illness or event. It may or may not cover all of your expenses, but it can help offset the risk on a high deductible plan if you want some extra piece of mind for yourself.

5) Save with an H.S.A. If you are going to get an individual plan, look for one that is H.S.A. compatible. Why? You’ll save money automatically by using pre-tax dollars to pay for medically qualified expenses, more buying power and less taxes. Plus, you won’t lose the money you put into the account; it rolls over every year. Once you’ve built up enough to cover your deductible, consider raising your deductible again to save money on premiums. Once you retire, the money in the account can be used for things like long term care insurance premiums. Check online for a list of items and services that can be paid for with an H.S.A. account.