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Health insurance tips by decade: What to buy & how to use it

Health insurance tips by decade: What to buy & how to use it

Decades: not just for music styles. Whether you grew up jamming to the Rolling Stones or N'Sync, you'll need health insurance. How you buy -- and then use -- your health plan depends on your age. We've got a few tips for you:

20's

How to Find Your Plan

We encounter a lot of young people in their twenties who are intimidated by the adjustment to “adulthood’--graduating college, finding jobs, the works. Health insurance can be another confusing step in the process. Luckily, you tend to be pretty healthy, which simplifies the insurance purchasing process. People often shy away from Catastrophic plans (maybe it’s the name?), but for a healthy young adult, they’re an excellent option. These plans have a high deductible and very low monthly premium. In other words, you can stay healthy at a low cost and avoid bankruptcy in the event of a medical catastrophe. Besides, all plans now include free preventative care (basic doctor visits, vaccines, flu shots, etc), which is the main reason you'll visit the doctor anyway!

Remember to see if you qualify for a government subsidy. Last year, about 9 million uninsured young adults qualified.

How to Use Your Plan

To stay on top of your health, take advantage of your plan's free benefits and get that annual physical. Staying on top of your health and catching problems before they're serious should be a priority. And make sure to establish a routine of exercising and eating well; your insurance company will probably reimburse you for (or get you discounts on) gym memberships!

30’s

How to Find Your Plan

Though you no longer qualify for Catastrophic plans, you still have affordable options. A basic Bronze plan, for instance, will provide access to free preventative care, quality doctor visits, and proper coverage in case of emergency.

For you 30-something-year-olds that have moved beyond the “I’m-single-and-I-like it” stage, health insurance isn’t a personal decision anymore. When significant others are involved, we recommend considering purchasing separate plans, especially if different health needs and preferences are involved. If one person is managing an illness, for example, he or she may need a “richer” plan (one with more benefits and a larger network) while the other chooses a more basic option. For more info, read our quick guide for couples.

Got a young family? Medical costs are inevitable, making health insurance a must. Choosing a plan with higher monthly payments but expansive benefits may actually save you money in the long run. Besides, plans provide essential coverage to new families, like prenatal care, ultrasounds, and diagnostics. Also, breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling are free. Another useful quick guide here.

How to Use Your Plan

Make the most of your insurance and get those basic checkups, OBGYN visits, eye exams, and so on. Also, remember that many immunizations actually have to be renewed; your plan will cover these basic immunizations for free.

40’s

How to Find Your Plan

Ah, the big 40. Suddenly, your knees and back aren’t as tough as they used to be! With more health conditions, it’s important to be thoughtful about the kind of plan you purchase. Keep in mind, though, that under Obamacare, you cannot be denied coverage or charged higher premiums just because you have a pre-existing condition like high blood pressure or asthma. Still, a plan with more expensive monthly payments (like a “Gold” tier plan) may save you more by keeping the costs of doctor visits, medications, and treatments lower.

If a family is involved, so are different doctors, drugs, and needs. Consider a plan that provides flexible and broad coverage. Gold or Platinum plans, for example, have higher monthly payments and expansive benefits.

How to Use Your Plan

Now’s the time to get certain tests to check, prevent, or take care of specific illnesses. You should begin testing your blood sugar before the age of 45. You should also periodically check your cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. Many doctors suggest that women begin getting annual mammograms in their forties, as well.

50’s

How to Find Your Plan

The Affordable Care Act has changed the rules in many important ways. Premiums for older adults can be at most three times that of younger adults. This puts a cap on the amount you will pay each month to receive the medical services you need, even as you age and start paying for more medical services.

While at this age you may have more experience with health insurance, it’s important to reconsider your health insurance options. For instance, even if you’re covered by your employer, shop around--private plans might offer you a better deal. As you compare your options, think beyond the premium and evaluate your annual medical costs. Make sure you have a plan that covers your prescriptions and doctor visits. If you have a favorite physician, check your network. “Out-of-network” care can get very expensive. Consider a “Preferred Provider Organization” (PPO) plan...it allows more flexibility when visiting specialists and doctors.

How to Use Your Plan

Even if you're healthy, you should visit the doctor often to keep tabs on your well-being. Continually testing blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and vision is highly encouraged! Men and women in their fifties should especially stay on top of their vaccines and flu shots.

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