Monday, July 8, 2013

Guide to Health Insurance for Single Moms

Finding quality health insurance as a single mom can seem like an impossible task. What already is a serious challenge for anyone is further complicated by having to finance coverage with just one source of income.

One can hardly blame single moms for wanting to give up the fight and go without however the fact remains that your child or children rely on your daily support and not having health coverage
puts both you and those who depend on you at risk. On top of the financial risk, new laws that target the uninsured with a severe tax penalty are another good reason to make sure that you are always covered by at least a basic plan.

While it may feel like an unnecessary financial burden during times of good health, the pendulum can swing rather quickly in the opposite direction should you find yourself in a position where you need medical treatment. Attempting to finance the cost of quality health care out-of-pocket can quickly turn a bad situation into a desperate one. You don't ever want to put yourself in that position if you can avoid it. Fortunately, there are some options available that are suitable for single mothers; you just have to know where to look and what to look for.

Where to Start

It may seem at first as if plans are not as easily available as they are for others. In some cases, the premiums will likely be higher. All is not lost however and there are effective ways to get around lofty premiums. A bit of research and ingenuity can leave you with a deal that might end up being surprisingly affordable. Here are a few areas you should investigate in your search for the right coverage.

This mnemonic will help you sort through the options available to you: PIPES. In other words, start your search in the following areas:
  1. Programs run by the state
  2. Insurance pool programs
  3. Professional organizations
  4. Employer sponsored health insurance
  5. Special circumstance programs
Options for Single Moms
Let's look at each of these individually, starting with the first.
  1. State Programs: Most states across the country have alternative programs for children born to single moms. It is important to know that these programs can sometimes be available to you as well; either as an extension after childbirth or under extenuating circumstances such as unemployment or financial hardship. In either case, it is probably worth your while to find out if you qualify for any state sponsored programs.
  2. Insurance Pool Programs: If individual health insurance programs are too expensive to fit within your budget, you may want to consider participating in a pooled program. If you happen to know a sizeable group of single moms in your area, you could form an insurance pool that distributes the risk and the premium. This type of arrangement can offer a significant reduction in cost over purchasing an individual plan. If you don’t have an immediate network of friends large enough to qualify, you may want to research group health insurance plans or pooled programs online and then network with like-minded people by starting a group on Facebook or another social networking site. One you find several others in a similar situation, you can combine your resources to reduce the cost of insurance for everyone in your group.
  3. Professional Organizations: If you are a working professional, chances are that you are a member of some type of professional organization or another. These professional organizations offer some surprisingly beneficial and reasonably cheap health insurance plans. Some organizations even have plans specifically designed for single moms and more often than not, they will end up being a good way to save some money.
  4. Employer Sponsored Health Insurance: If you are employed on at least a part-time basis, you might be eligible for coverage through your employer. These plans will almost always be the least expensive path to quality care because the employer shares in the cost and you have the advantage of getting group rates. Even if you are not working, you may want to consider taking on just enough hours with a company to qualify for insurance. In many cases, the benefits savings are even more of a benefit than the wage from the job itself. If you are in the process of considering a change in jobs (for whatever reason), make sure that your new employer can offer you good benefits and always remember to ask if there is a waiting period before coverage begins so you can make arrangements to cover the gap.
  5. Special Circumstances/Hardship Programs: Almost every state across the length and breadth of the nation will offer special plans for single moms facing financial hardship, if special extenuating circumstances are prevalent. For example, in the case of a life threatening disease being detected in a single mom, some health insurance plans kick in automatically. Of course, as far as the state is concerned, automatically means automatically plus paperwork. Just make sure you get in touch with the relevant state department as soon as possible. The process can take some time so don’t wait until you are seriously ill to start doing your research.
If you've gone through the list above and still haven't found an appropriate option, you can always investigate an individual health insurance plan. Be sure to request free online rate quotes from several different providers so you can compare plans and shop for the best rate.
It's not easy being a single mom, and policy providers don’t always do a lot to make the process any easier. Keep in mind the tips and options outlined above; it should make the process much less stressful and confusing. In addition, here's a tip that is often overlooked: supplemental insurance can end up being the proverbial cherry on top. There are various supplemental plans out there and in certain situations, they might be a good option.

The key to finding the best possible match for your needs and financial situation is to always be shopping around for the best deal. Even if you are now covered by an existing plan, it doesn't cost a dime to see if there is another competing plan offering comparable coverage at a lower rate. Remember that the educated consumer almost always comes out on top!

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