You can do almost anything online nowadays, and that includes buying health insurance.

And seriously:

Why would anyone want to deal with an agent on the phone or in-person. 

Wouldn't you prefer to just skip the high-pressure sales tactics and compare quotes online at your leisure?

If you’ve never purchased health insurance online then you're in luck because this post is going to go over step by step instructions on how to buy health insurance online and fast.

What You Will Need

Before you begin shopping, you’ll need to have some basic information ready.

The reason is that to prepare an online quote, potential insurers need to know who they’re dealing with. 

Be equipped with the following:

  • Age And Gender of Person Being Insured
  • Current Prescriptions Taken & Dosage
  • Social Security Number
  • Tobacco Use History
  • Your Doctors Information
  • Drivers License Number

Most of this information isn't needed to get a simple quote.

However, if you want to get the most accurate answer, make sure your prescriptions are on the insurers list, and also that your doctor is in-network then you should have this info on-hand.

THE SIMPLY INSURANCE WAY

Health Insurance made easy.

Agents not required.

Get quotes and sign up online without talking to an agent. But, we are here if you need us. 

Unbiased, expert advice.

Get unbiased insurance education from licensed experts and also avoid dodgy sales calls.

Coverage in minutes.

You can get health insurance coverage within minutes of getting your quotes and applying.

How To Purchase Health Insurance Online – Step By Step Instructions

Once you’ve gathered all the relevant details that you’ll need to fill in on an online quote form, you can begin the process of finding potential insurers as outlined in this guide.

1. Research The Coverage You Need

Before you do anything, you first need to figure out exactly what coverage you are going to need (and this can get confusing) so let me break down the areas of the policy you need to consider.

Here is an overview of your options:

A Reasonable Deductible

The first thing you need to decide is what your annual deductible is going to be.  This is the amount you will need to pay before the insurance company starts to help you pay for your medical expenses. 

These deductibles can range anywhere from $0 to $10,000.  The deductible you choose should be an amount that you could afford if you had to use your plan. 

Usually you will find that younger people will have much higher deductibles because they don't go tot he doctors as much and they are looking to save on premiums. 

However, if you have a chronic illness or are on certain medications, you will need a reasonable deductible.   Usually between $500 and $2,500 is what I would recommend.

Remember, the lower the deductible, the higher your monthly premium is going to be.  This means your budget also needs to be considered when choosing a deductible.

Considering A High Deductible Plan

As I state shortly above, depending on your health situation and budget a high deductible plan might be the best option for you. Especially if you choose one that has a co-pay for doctors visits.

This would give you a low premium and the ability to go see your doctor for a set rate. However, if something does happen to you it could lead to financial ruin.

It's important to be smart about how you pick your deductible.

Your Co-Insurance

Next up, you need to figure out how much you want to pay towards your health costs and how much assistance you would like from the insurance company.

This is where the Co-Insurance comes into play, essentially, the insurance company will be responsible for a certain amount of your health benefits and you will be responsible for the remaining.

These Co-Insurance amounts come in ranges such as: 

  • 50/50 (You will be responsible for 50% of your medical expenses after your deductible
  • 60/40 (You will be responsible for 40% of your medical expenses after your deductible
  • 70/30 (You will be responsible for 30% of your medical expenses after your deductible
  • 80/20 (You will be responsible for 20% of your medical expenses after your deductible

Keep in mind, that just like with your deductible, the lower your Co-Insurance, the higher the premium will be. Again, understanding your budget is essential.

Will You Have A Co-Pay

Co-pay and Co-insurance often causes a ton of confusion so let me clear it up for you.  A Co-Pay is what you will need to pay when you visit a doctor. 

Usually this can range from $0 per visit up to $75 per visit or even more for a specialist visit depending on your plan. 

However, some plans give you the option to exclude the benefit altogether for a lower premium, which means you will be 100% responsible for the doctors visit fee.

If you do your annual checkup and need to see the doctor on a usual basis you probably should get a co-pay.

Having a Co-Pay will increase your premiums and the lower the co-pay the higher the premiums. As you can see, your budget is an important part of this. 

Should You Get A Separate Prescription Deductible

Depending on your plan you have the option to have prescription drugs included.  

However, some companies offer a separate deductible that you must meet before they will start helping with payments toward your prescriptions.

This means that this deductible would not help you in meeting your overall health insurance deductible.

For example: 

Let's say you have a $1,000 deductible for your policy and a $500 deductible for prescriptions.  

If you need to fill a prescription, you will have to pay the first $500 toward them and then after that the insurance company will start assisting with prescriptions based on its formulary. 

If in the same year you need to go to the doctor for just check ups or blood work, you will still be responsible for meeting that $1,000 deductible before your Co-insurance would kick in.

Now, there are some policies that include the prescriptions with the overall deductible, but if you take a ton of medicine it might not be the best option.

This is because you would be completely responsible for both medical and prescription costs until you meet your annual policy deductible. 

Have A Budget & Putting It All Together

As you can easily see, if you don't have a budget you may build a policy that's outside of the monthly premiums that you can afford. 

The best thing to do is to make sure you mix and match your co-insurance and deductibles to a point that works out for your budget.

You also need to be very mindful of your prescription costs and make sure the policy you choose has the best option for your medications.

INSURANCE WHERE YOU LIVE

Health insurance by state.

2. Pick A Health Insurance Plan Type

Once you have a strong idea of the coverage you need and what you want your budget to be, it's going to be time to determine the type of insurance plan you are going to go with. 

There are 4 options that people usually choose from and they are :

HMO

HMO is short for Health Maintenance Organization and this plan is going to require you get all of your medical treatment in-network.  

You usually will not be covered for out-of network care and you will also need a referral to visit any specialist.  

The benefit of an HMO plan is that they usually are more affordable on a monthly basis; however, if you currently have a doctor that you like, they would need to be part of the HMO if you wanted to use them.

PPO

PPO is short for Preferred Provider Organization and this plan is going to allow you to see in-network or out-of network doctors. 

However, the cost for in-network doctors and services are going to be much more affordable than if you go out-of-network.

In a PPO plan you also don't have to worry about needing a referral to see a specialist. 

This plan is going to cost a bit more than an HMO plan, but it also allows you to use any doctor you choose to, regardless if they are in or out of network.

POS

POS is short for Point Of Service Plan and this type of plan allows you to see any doctor as well. Just like a PPO, this plan will give you much lower rates for using an in-network doctor. 

On the other end, it still will require you to have a referral to see a specialist.

If the PPO and POS plans have similar pricing I would choose a PPO.

EPO

EPO is short for Exclusive Provider Organization and this type of plan requires you to stay in-network unless of an emergency.  

Outside of that, you won't need a referral to see specialists but you are going to be limited to only the doctors and facilities in-network.

How To Choose

The easiest way to choose is going to be first figuring out if your doctor is in the network of the plan you are considering. 

Are you fine with a new doctor or do you have someone you prefer to see and are the in-network facilities close to your home or far away.

At this point, you should know which coverage options you are going to choose, and which network you want to be a part of (based on your doctor).

Keep in mind that the same doctor can be part of multiple networks and aren't always set to one company.

3. Find Reputable Insurance Companies

Now it's time to begin researching companies that you’re considering for your health insurance.

It might seem like you have a limited number of companies to choose from, especially on the exchange.

But there are some ways to make sure you get a solid company that pays their claims on time. 

Online Reviews

Reading what other customers are saying will give you an idea of how well the company will serve your needs.

Pay particular attention to what people say about rate increases and the claims process. To find online reviews, do a Google search for: company name + reviews.

You can also check each company’s social media pages to see if people are complaining and how the company responds to those complaints.

BBB

The Better Business Bureau logs all complaints that come in about a business and then assigns a letter grade.

Look for A ratings. While a B rating isn’t necessarily the end of the world, it does indicate that a significant number of negative reviews have been written.

A.M. Best or Similar Rankings

If you’re thinking about doing business with a less established company, it’s a good idea to check their creditworthiness and financial health.

After all, it would be terrible if you tried to collect on a claim only to find out your insurance company was on the verge of bankruptcy.

AM Best will give you a detailed view of a company’s financial condition. You should also be able to find this rating information on a company's individual website under ratings.

THE SIMPLY INSURANCE WAY

Health Insurance made easy.

Agents not required.

Get quotes and sign up online without talking to an agent. But, we are here if you need us. 

Unbiased, expert advice.

Get unbiased insurance education from licensed experts and also avoid dodgy sales calls.

Coverage in minutes.

You can get health insurance coverage within minutes of getting your quotes and applying.

4. Compare Out Of Pocket Costs

Now that you have a general idea of the policy and network you need it's time to start comparing the out of pocket costs. 

This is essential because outside of your monthly premium, this amount will determine what your annual healthcare spend would be. 

Remember, I said earlier that you want to play around with the deductible and co-insurance until you have a good price point.

It's also the same for figuring out your out of pocket costs.  Each plan is also going to have what is known as an out of pocket maximum.  

This amount is usually shown in the summary of benefits and can go well past a few thousand dollars. 

Be sure that the plan you choose has one of the lowest out of pocket maximums but remember, like everything else, the lower your out of pocket maximum the higher your monthly premiums.

To be even more clear, let's go over an example below: 

HMO Policy

PPO Policy

POS Policy

EPO Policy

$500 Deductible

$1,000 Deductible

$1,500 Deductible

$2,500 Deductible

80/20 Co-Insurance

70/30 Co-Insurance

60/40 Co-Insurance

70/30 Co-Insurance

$4,000 OOP Maximum 

$7,000 OOP Maximum

$5,000 OOP Maximum

7,500 OOP Maximum

$20,000 Annual spend on medical

$20,000 Annual spend on medical

$20,000 Annual spend on medical

$20,000 Annual spend on medical

OOP Costs - $4,000

OOP Costs - $6,700

OOP Costs - $5,000

OOP Costs - $7,500

Please keep in mind this is only an Example, none of these numbers are real, the above chart is being used to help you better understand out of pocket maximums.  

We are also keeping the annual spend on medical expenses at $20,000 which could be more or less for you depending on your situation.

The HMO Policy

The reason this policy would cause you to spend $4,000 out of pocket annually is because you are going to be responsible for the first $500 with your deductible. 

Then your Co-insurance will kick in and cover the 80% of the remaining $19,500 you would spend that year.

This means you would be left with paying $3,900 of your expenses. However, you would have hit your out of pocket maximum of $4,000 when you consider the 500 deductible and $3,500 from medical expenses.

Which brings your total out of pocket costs, before premiums, to only $4,000 saving you about $400 annually.

The PPO Policy

The reason this policy would cause you to spend $6,700 out of pocket annually is because you are going to be responsible for the first $1,000 with your deductible. 

Then your Co-insurance will kick in and cover the 70% of the remaining $19,000 you would spend that year.

This means you would be left with paying $5,700 of your expenses.

You wouldn't have hit your out of pocket maximum of $7,000 yet when you consider the $1,000 deductible and $5,700 from medical expenses.

Which brings your total out of pocket costs, before premiums, to $6,700.

The POS Policy

The reason this policy would cause you to spend $5,000 out of pocket annually is because you are going to be responsible for the first $1,500 with your deductible. 

Then your Co-insurance will kick in and cover the 60% of the remaining $18,500 you would spend that year.

This means you would be left with paying $7,400 of your expenses.

However, you would have hit your out of pocket maximum of $5,000 when you consider the $1,500 deductible and $7,400 from medical expenses.

Which brings your total out of pocket costs, before premiums, to only $5,000 saving you about $2,400 annually.

The EOP Policy

The reason this policy would cause you to spend $7,5000 out of pocket annually is because you are going to be responsible for the first $2,500 with your deductible. 

Then your Co-insurance will kick in and cover the 70% of the remaining $17,500 you would spend that year.

This means you would be left with paying $5,250 of your expenses. However, you would have hit your out of pocket maximum of $7,500 when you consider the $2,500 deductible and $5,250 from medical expenses.

Which brings your total out of pocket costs, before premiums, to $7,500 saving you about $250 annually.

Now remember, this is just to give you an idea of how it all works so that you can figure this out for your own when you are reviewing policies. 

5. Complete An Online Application

Now that you’ve narrowed down your search, it’s time to complete an online application.

Once you fill in all the details, you may get an instant quote, or companies might follow up with you via email or telephone. 

There are a couple of ways to access the online application:

  • Visit The Insurance Company’s Website From A Blog That Has Written A Review
  • Go Directly To The Insurance Company’s Website And Get A Quote. 

As you’re filling out the online application, have all of the information you gathered from earlier steps.

It’s essential to be as accurate as possible as you provide all of the details in your application.

If anything that you report is false, then it could result in cancellation of coverage or a rate hike. 

6. Pay For Coverage

There are multiple options when paying for your health insurance coverage especially if you are paying through the exchange. 

However, it's essential to make sure your premium payments arrive on-time to the insurance company or you will miss open enrollment and be unable to purchase coverage for the rest of the year. 

Try to pay by direct deposit if you can and if you can't be sure that your premiums are paid well before the end of the open enrollment period.

INSURANCE WHERE YOU LIVE

Health insurance by state.

7. Remember Your Start Date

Before you start trying to use your coverage be sure to know exactly when your policy will go into effect. 

One of the largest issues you can run into is using your coverage before it starts.

This could cost you a ton of money if you end up going to a doctor that would no longer be in your network come the affective date of your policy.

You would also be in the position of spending money before it would go towards your new deductible and co-insurance.

Be sure to keep a copy of your insurance card with you and make sure you present the correct one when you visit any type of medical facility.

Taking Action

People often ask me, “Is it cheaper to get health insurance online?”

The answer is not really, most of the pricing is already baked into the policy, but you can save yourself a headache if you do the correct research.

The first quote you get isn’t necessarily going to be the best. Make sure you shop around to get the lowest rates. 

By using the Internet to get health insurance, you’ll be able to compare rates from multiple companies side by side, instead of having to take an agent’s word at face value.

There is no need to wait around to get started, you don't want to miss the open enrollment.


Sa El

About the author

Sa El is the Co-Founder of Simply Insurance and a licensed Insurance Agent with over 12 years of experience in the industry.  He specializes in Life & Health Insurance and is certified in Long Term Care Insurance in the state of Georgia. He is also an Official Member of the Forbes Finance Council, a licensed real estate agent in the state of Georgia (License #382602), an entrepreneur, insurance educator, and freelance writer.


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}