The internet is everywhere! You can purchase Christmas presents online, Amazon has its weekly deals online. This week I purchased my son a Nintendo ds online. Yes, you can even purchase health insurance online.
Using the internet to purchase health insurance has some advantanges, it might save you some time, especially if you spend a lot of time commuting through the Chicago area traffic. You might even be able to compare plans and get estimated premiums.
There are all of these advantages of the internet, however, it is not that simple. Usually, the premiums quoted online are are the preferred pricing, which many people cannot qualify for due to a medical condition or a height and weight restriction. They also often times show their lowest priced plans, which often times are reduced benefit plans. Some companies will advertise their 50%/50% co-insurance plan rather than their 80%/20% just to show the lower rate. Other companies have a higher out of pocket maximum, which means paying more at the time of claim.
In Illinois, as well as every other State, Insurance Companies have to file their rates with their State’s Department of Insurance (DOI), the rates are the same whether you purchase directly through the internet or through an insurance broker. There are many reasons to work with a trusted insurance broker, here are just a few…
A good broker will be able to help you pick the right plan for your needs, and get you with the right carrier. For example, Celtic insurance company, which is based in Chicago, is often times the lowest priced plan in the Chicago area. Their business model is that Celtic as a company had decided in all of their PPO plans to only pay for two doctor visits per person on the policy per year. Now for most people that is enough. It is not for everyone. I spoke with a client about a week ago who was on my website wanting Celtic because it had the lowest premium. After speaking with her, I found out she went to the doctor over 20 times last year. Celtic was not the correct carrier for her.
Many carriers in the Chicago Area, will exclude pre-existing conditions for twelve months or more. Aetna will not exclude those conditions if you have creditable coverage for at least 18 months. They either accept you or they do not. The first question I ask when someone tells me they have a medical condition is, “do you want to get them covered?”. Dealing with a broker can save you more time so you do not apply with a carrier to find out you have to wait 12 months, to use the coverage.
Unfortunately, insurance rates go up every year. A good broker can shop for their clients, yearly so they do not have too. Sometimes after twelve months you need to change carriers, sometimes you do not. The broker often times begins this process before the renewal letters even come out. That provides the client with enough time to find the right plan. That makes dealing with a broker more convenient.
A good broker can help an insured in many ways. Policyholders often times do not know how the policy is written so the broker needs to explain it at the time of claim. Sometimes claims are denied for an excluded part of the policy or something that their is no coverage for on the policy. Also it is unfortunate that sometimes claims are denied for the wrong reason. I personally have had two cases recently where the clients had major claims within the first 90 days of the policy. One was investigate for nine months before it was paid by the insurance carrier. The second one was denied quickly. I had to get involved and tell them why it was a payable claim. They did pay it! The client would have been on her own with out the assistance of a trusted insurance broker. A good broker must provide great customer service. If you purchase a policy directly from the internet and have a problem, how do you get it resolved? As far as I know you can’t call the internet!
Most brokers have an underwriting guide for each carrier they represent. If a client has a medical condition they can verify if the carrier is going to increase your premium or deny coverage. This can save you a lot of time filling out an application for a plan you might not qualify for.
To my clients, I tell them as far as they are concerned I am an unpaid consultant. That may change as the health care reform laws have affected the way agents and brokers are compensated, but for now, all fees to the broker are paid by the insurance carrier.