The Artists' Guide to Health Insurance 5 Tips for Shopping

Follow these simple tips and you’ll quickly find your best fit:

  1. Make a list of plan benefits that are “must haves.” List these items in order of importance. Take note of any "deal breakers" that you must have in order to feel that the insurance is worthwhile. Maybe it's comprehensive prescription coverage, no referrals required, or that your doctor is in the network.
  2. Make a budget. Take a long, hard look at your finances and decide what fixed cost you can afford per month for a health insurance plan. Then compare the plans that are available to you to see if you can estimate your monthly out-of-pocket expense with each. For example, if you are considering a plan that has a $50 copay for a specialist visit, and you visit a specialist once a month, that is an additional $600 that you will need to budget if you are on that plan.
  3. Be realistic. Don’t get wrapped up in an idealistic vision of a plan. You know the one: the magic plan with tons of coverage, no deductible, and small copays with a cheap premium (in other words, a fantasy plan). In effect, this narrows your options to none because no plans would meet your unrealistic expectations. You need to strike a balance between your fantasy plan and the one you can afford.
  4. Look beyond the sticker price. If a plan looks too good to be true, chances are it is. Find out the total out-of-pocket expense. Make sure it is not just a discount plan, or if it is and that is what you want, make sure that you are finding it from a reliable source. Don't be afraid to call the insurance company and ask any questions that you have: if they are difficult to contact or are not helpful, that's a sure sign that you'll want to stay away.
  5. Disappointment happens. Since health insurance is regulated independently in every state, your options (and your premiums) will be different everywhere. Don't be surprised if you have more or fewer options than your friend a few states over. Also, health insurance companies still have the right to reject your application for enrollment so make sure to have a backup plan or two.

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