What kinds of health insurance are there?

There are essentially two kinds of heath insurance -- Fee-for-Service and Managed Care. Although these plans differ, they both cover an array of medical, surgical and hospital expenses. Most cover prescription drugs and some also offer dental coverage.

    1. Fee-for-Service.
These plans generally assume that the medical professional will be paid a fee for each service provided to the patient. Patients are seen by a doctor of their choice and the claim is filed by either the medical provider or the patient.

    2. Managed Care.

More than half of all Americans have some kind of managed-care plan. Various plans work differently and can include: health maintenance organizations (HM0s), preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and point-of-service (POS) plans. These plans provide comprehensive health services to their members and offer financial incentives to patients who use the providers in the plan.

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Can I buy an individual policy?

    1. Ask your insurance company if you can convert its group policy to an individual policy. You will pay a higher rate than you did before and your benefits may be limited, but the terms will still probably be better than if you buy your own policy.

    2. If you are married, see if your spouse�s employer will add you to its group plan

    3. Try to join a group health plan through a trade association or alumni group or professional association may offer reasonable rates. If you are over age 50, you can join the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which offers an extensive plan. Even some credit card companies offer health insurance coverage.     4. As a last resort, you can buy an individual policy. The rates will be high and coverage limited, but it is important that you be protected against financial catastrophe if you or your family are hit with a major illness or injury. If you are self-employed, most of the health insurance premium will be tax-deductible.

To find the best policy, consult with a health insurance agent or broker who will help you find the contract that gives you the most for your money.

    1. You leave a company and become unemployed or self-employed for up to 18 months.

    2. You are a widow or widower or child of an employee who dies while working for the same company for three years or more.

    3. You are the divorced spouse or child of an employee who has left the company he or she was employed at for at least three years.

    4. You are the child of an employee who left a job and have not yet reached age 23.

NOTE: If you need COBRA benefits, you must fill out the appropriate forms from your employer�s benefits department within 60 days of leaving your job. If you do not act within that time, you may be denied coverage.

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If I change jobs or become unemployed, can I bring my coverage with me?

If you switch employers, you have the right to carry your group health insurance coverage with you to a new job for up to 18 months under the Congressional Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

You must pay the full premium, but at group rates that are far cheaper than the individual rates you would pay for similar coverage. Health insurance under COBRA is available if you are in these situations:

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