The great temptation whenever you start shopping around is to assume you can afford to buy whatever you are looking for. It comes from those long-lost days when credit card companies would write you every month with good news about your borrowing limits. You were tempted into more debt, but it meant never really having to worry about whether you could afford to buy. The additional money would simply be added on to your overall debts.
Now the credit crunch has settled in as your permanent house guest, it’s a good idea to start doing a real set of accounts to keep track of your family’s spending. Why bother, you ask? The number of foreclosed property up and down your streets, the number of business shuttered on Main Street, should give you a clue. People who hope for the best when trying to live beyond their means usually come unstuck. Now’s the time to count the dollars and cents. When you are employed, you know exactly how much money you have coming in every month. When you are self-employed, your income is likely to go up and down, making it more difficult to budget. The best you can do is average the monthly income over the last twelve months. Now let’s list the main headings.
Go through all your check stubs and bank statements. Make a list of all the regular payments on utilities, mortgage, insurance premiums, credit and store cards, and so on. If there are regular payments you could cut, make a separate list. For example, everyone has to eat, but do you really want to eat out once a week? It’s often surprising to see how much you could save if you cut down on discretionary payments and leave only the necessary payments. These are lifestyle choices. When the times were good, you could afford all these “luxuries”. Now times are hard, you have decisions to make. When you have finished, you should have a number showing how much you can afford to spend on a health plan and leave a little over in case of emergencies. Never plan to spend more than you earn and hope you can juggle the numbers every month. Live within your means. Now pause for a moment. Are you going to accept a policy with a deductible? Can you estimate how much the co-payments might be if you have to get treatment. The deductible must be available as a cash sum to cover the claim. Co-payments must be made out of your pocket as you go along. What can you afford out of your budget? Do you have savings or a margin unused on your credit cards to fill in the gap?
Now get the health insurance quotes through this site. Look not just at the monthly amount you pay, but at how much you have to pay before the plan starts to pay out. If the health insurance quotes are unclear, get on the telephone and talk to a human being for clarification. Do not accept a plan unless you know you can afford to pay the deductible and co-payments on visits with your doctor, needed drugs, and so on. Even more important, check whether there is an upper limit on the amount the plan will pay out in a year. If there is a limit, do you want to take the risk? If you have an existing condition, how long must you wait before cover kicks in? Can you afford treatment while you wait? These are hard questions but, to protect yourself, you should ask them.