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February 28, 2011
By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - For those looking to learn more about shopping for health insurance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a good deal of helpful information for the public accessible on-line.

The health care information resources available from the department's website range from the basics of health insurance, like definitions of premiums, deductibles and coinsurance, to comparing care quality and understanding the law.

Government officials said most people get health insurance through a job-based health plan, or they buy it themselves from an insurance company. If you have to buy insurance on your own, there are many kinds of private health insurance policies for sale, though not all offer the same benefits if you were to become ill.

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There are several things to remember when considering purchasing insurance, but government officials say among the most important, is that the cheapest insurance policy isn't always the best.

"The most obvious feature of any policy is the premium -the amount you pay (usually monthly) to an insurance company for a health insurance policy," the website said. "Just as important as the premium cost, however, is how much you have to pay when you get services."

Some examples of these items to consider involving services and cost relationships include the benefits offered, how much you pay before insurance coverage begins (a deductible), what you pay for services after you pay the deductible, how much in total you will have to pay if you become ill (your out-of-pocket maximum).

Government officials remind consumers there often is a direct trade-off

between how much you pay for health insurance and the extent of the covered benefits.

"As you weigh this trade-off, remember that buying the policy with the cheapest premium or with a very high out-of-pocket maximum may leave many services and treatments uncovered," the website said. "This could leave you vulnerable to high medical bills if you were to become ill."

Government officials say it can be a challenge to find coverage that meets

your healthcare needs and fits your budget. Health insurance that covers more tends to cost more.

There are five important tips the Department of Health and Human Services suggests you remember when beginning shopping for health insurance:

- Do your best to balance the monthly cost of a premium with the protection

the policy offers.

- Determine what you will have to pay yourself for covered services

(deductible, coinsurance, copayments and out-of-pocket limit)

- Estimate costs for non-covered care (services excluded or limited by the

policy) and charges (fees above what the plan recognizes)

- Avoid policies which don't have some kind of maximum out-of-pocket limit on

covered charges.

- Don't mistake "insurance-like" products for comprehensive coverage

Considering health care shopping options can be a daunting task. But that job can be made easier and far greater understood by taking the time to educate

yourself on some of the basics involved and associated potential problematic issues.

The advice available from the government can help consumers on their road to understanding and making better healthcare insurance choices.

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website located at:

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is



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