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Shopping Around for New Health Insurance

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We currently have a decent health insurance plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield. Because it is an individual plan, and not one sponsored by my employer, we pay 100% of the premium. At a little over $400/month, it takes up a good chunk of our income.

At the time, there were cheaper plans available through other insurance companies. I ended up going with Blue Cross because I’ve dealt with them in the past and have had good experiences with them. They also covered childbirth, and none of the other plans covered that unless you added an expensive rider to their policy.

While we still want to have another child, I don’t know when I’ll be ready, so perhaps it’s time to look into a cheaper health insurance policy for a while.

The one place I know to go (and it’s where I shopped before) is ehealthinsurance.com. You plug in a few bits of information about yourself and your family and you get a listing of policies that would work in your area.

I found a comparable plan for a little less than $200/month. That would reduce our health insurance costs by 50%. At first glance, it looks like there will be some reduction of benefits, but catostrophic events would be covered. Nowadays, one visit to the ER for a broken bone can eat up the deductible for many policies. As long as we have money in a savings account that can cover a yearly deductible I think we will be okay.

I haven’t applied for the new policy yet, since I haven’t had the time to really drill down and compare the two policies side by side. If we switch, I want to make sure of what we are getting into. While saving $200/month would really help our financial situation, possibly losing some health benefits is something to really think over.


We’re Cashing Out a Whole Life Insurance Policy

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Back when my husband was 18, his parents took out a $25,000 whole life insurance policy on him. His parents paid the premiums for some time and not too long after my husband and I got married we took over the payments. A little while after that, the policy was transferred fully over to my husband’s name.

We paid premium after premium for that policy. Back then, I didn’t question it too much. But now that I’ve been reading about personal finance, I think there is a better policy for us.

I started reading some articles about term versus whole life policies like this one from SmartMoney.com. The difference between the two boils down to this:

A term policy is life coverage only. On the death of the insured it pays the face amount of the policy to the named beneficiary. You can buy term for periods of one year to 30 years. Whole life insurance, on the other hand, combines a term policy with an investment component.

[Via SmartMoney.com]

With all of our debt, $25,000 wasn’t going to go very far. At this point in our life, we need a policy where you get more bang for your buck if the unspeakable happens. After looking around and doing background checks on different life insurance offers at http://www.insurance-how-to.com, I found a 10-year term life policy that only costs a few dollars more per month yet will provide $100,000 in coverage. Now that will at least wipe the debt slate clean. While it would be great to have more insurance than that, for now that is what we can afford.

In some cases, whole life may be the way to go. But after careful consideration, I set in motion the application to get term life insurance for my husband. For simplicity sake, I went through the same company that I got my life insurance from (Gerber). I sent out the payment and got the official papers so then it came time for my husband to call his whole life insurance policy.

He made the call and a few days later we received the paperwork that needed to be signed and returned. In that letter, we found out approximately how much money we will be getting by cashing out the policy…a little over $1,200. They also refund some of the premium that you paid so the total amount will be closer to $1,300. Now we are just waiting for the check.

It’s exciting that we will be getting a minor windfall. Oh, how we would have blown that on frivolous junk back then! Not anymore, though. Only just now I realized I could satisfy my LCD TV obsession with that money but I don’t even want to do that. Nope. It goes straight towards our debt and maybe a little towards our savings.

So now both my husband and I have $100,000 term life insurance policies and we are still making progress towards getting some financial security. We’re on the right track πŸ˜‰


The Result of My Life Insurance Shopping

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Back in February, I mentioned that I was shopping around for life insurance. I didn’t have any at all, and my husband has a $25,000 whole life policy. I wanted to get at least $100,000 term life insurance for the both of us and cancel my husband’s policy and cash it out.

How did I come up with $100,000?

The main thing I want taken care of is all of our debt. I want the surviving spouse to be able to live debt-free. I looked at our total debt and that comes to $85,776 (note: that amount includes the student loans for my husband and I although some of it will be forgiven because we each have our own loan).

Next I searched for the average cost of a funeral. I couldn’t seem to find any current information, but I did find the average cost for 2004: $6,500. I don’t believe that our costs would be that high, because my husband and I favor cremation and we don’t need a viewing or a fancy funeral.

Given that information, and the goodies that I learned from this MSN article, How to Plan an $800 Funeral, I am allocating a bit on the high side and using $2,500 for burial, etc.

The other cost will be any medical bills for the deceased spouse. Our health insurance policy has a maximum out-of-pocket yearly cost of $2,500. So, I want to make sure that is covered.

So far we have

Debt: $85,776
Funeral: $2,500
Health Insurance: $2,500

That brings us to almost $91,000. That will leave around $9,000 for other things. It really does go fast! I know it isn’t enough and I do want to get more in the near future. But I decided on that amount for the next year or so.

Now that I knew how much I wanted to purchase, it was time to find an insurance company. It was easy to find some companies to work with after cruising the personal finance blog-o-sphere and I also received a very nice email from a reader with some suggestions.

Here are the sites I checked out and went through the process to get a quote:

Intelliquote.com (aka Matrix Direct)
Reliaquote.com
Insure.com

The first company I received a call from (be prepared for the telephone calls!) was the one behind Insure.com. They were nice and pleasant and they took more information to schedule a time for someone to come out and do the health portion of obtaining life insurance. The next to call was Matrix Direct from Intelliquote.com. The woman there was very nice and very helpful so I decided to go ahead with the application for that one as well.

According to Matrix Direct, they can take the results of the health information for the other company for their underwriting. The fewer needle picks, the better.

All was well and it was going to be about three weeks until a portamedic could come to our house to draw blood, etc. During that time, I received quite a few calls from Matrix Direct. I heard from the one woman, who again was very nice. She even told me that if I could lose some weight before my exam, my rate would go down drastically.

Right there, I started rethinking buying term life insurance with a health exam. Maybe we should wait a little bit and work on our health to get lower rates.

Then, the calls started getting confusing. Matrix Direct would call (it was a different woman) and tell me what I needed to do with my application. Because Matrix Direct was the second company I applied with, I would have to mail my application in separately. But wait, now the woman is saying I had to give it to the portamedic.

The one thing about me is that if I start feeling a bad vibe from something, I tend to stop what I’m doing. In this case, I stopped EVERYTHING. I called the two companies and cancelled the applications. I was getting too confused and in the back of my mind I was thinking about how high the rates were for me.

Not too long after that, I miscarried and I found out how poor my health really was. I weighed more than I thought and my blood pressure is pretty high. I don’t even know if they would have insured me, and I’m not sure if a rejection by one company will hurt me in the long run. After all, there is that question about if you have been denied coverage by another life insurance company.

What was next? Trying out the no exam companies for some coverage.

I tried quite a few companies and each one said, “Sorry…we do not have a plan for you.” Since I have in my medical history that I was diagnosed with asthma and that I smoke, no one wanted to touch me. Until I came across a very familiar company that sells baby food and life insurance.

I’ve known about Gerber offering insurance on children, but after checking out their site I found out that they offer term life insurance for adults. I entered in the information, and instead of the automatic, “Sorry…” I was told that I would receive some information in the mail.

Sure enough, I received a questionaire about asthma. I filled it out and returned it and waited. They accepted my application and provided a quote. $35/month or you could receive discounts for paying every three months, six months or a year. If I paid yearly, it would only be $29/month. The same price would apply if I chose to have automatic monthly payments from my checking account or credit card.

My quote from the other companies were both over $30/month for the same amount of coverage. But how well does Gerber Life Insurance stack up according to Ambest.com (the ones who rate life insurance companies). It turns out that they rate them excellent (A).

Well, that seals it. I sent out my check and now I am covered by Gerber Life Insurance Company. Sounds sort of weird, but for a filler life insurance company it will do just fine. Next step is to get my husband covered but we will be waiting a little bit for that so we can stagger our payments a little (I’m paying in three month intervals at the moment and that comes out to a little over $32/month).

My method is a little unconventional, but given my poor health at the moment and my desire to change that around drastically within the next year, I didn’t want to take the chance of getting denied for life insurance that was exam dependant. I ended up finding the same coverage for almost the same price. Once my health improves, we will go ahead and get more coverage (the limit for Gerber is $100,000) through a different company.

I feel very good about my decision although I did not enjoy shopping for life insurance and dealing my own mortality. But you really do have to think about it and at least do something to help those that you would leave behind if the unthinkable does happen. I kept thinking that to myself the whole time to help motivate me to get through this.

We are one more step closer to getting our financial house in order. Yay!


The Good News and The Not-so-good News About Our Health Insurance

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Although we do have health insurance, there’s good news and not-so-good news about it when it comes to my pregnancy.

Good News: Overall, there is no deductible and we have to pay 30% for almost all services, up to the $2,500 out of pocket maximum. That’s not too bad, and quite frankly, that’s the best individual plan I could get with some sort of maternity benefit. It’s also with a trusted insurer that I have worked with before (Blue Cross Blue Shield). It will cover 70% of the delivery costs.

Not-so-good News: The plan does not cover prenatal or postnatal care. To me, this seems very odd because prenatal care is so important during pregnancy. With my son, near the end there were many tests and ultrasounds. I developed pregnancy induced hypertension and they wanted to monitor us closely. Add to that the fact that my son was almost two weeks late and I’m sure the costs were significant. I wish I kept all of the paperwork from our care, but I didn’t.

It would be nice if I can get an idea of what to expect for costs. This is my biggest problem with medical care. If you want to know the cost of something, you cannot get a straight answer. Even if you call to find out the cost of an office visit, they give you a run around answer about how many different things factor into a visit and they cannot possibly tell you the cost beforehand. Everything else I spend money on I can shop around wisely. Healthcare is a different story and it drives me crazy.

When I had my son, everything was covered 100% through my husband’s employer’s health insurance plan. I didn’t pay anything out of pocket. This time, I will need to be vigilant and apply some of the things I have learned:

– I will ask for detailed bills and go through them with a magnifying glass if needed to make sure the charges are correct.

– I will ask if there are ways to receive a discount (like pay in cash, perhaps).

– When it comes time to get prescriptions filled, I will shop around for the best price since prescription costs can vary wildly from pharmacy to pharmacy.

The last thing I want to do is to start putting medical costs on our credit cards. I will if I absolutely have to, but I won’t do it without a fight.

I can see it now…I’m 9 months pregnant and it looks like I am about to burst and I’m sitting there with the billing department arguing over a $10.00 overcharge. I’m laughing because I can see myself doing it! LOL.


Oh My…It’s March, We Made It!

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When we purchased our health insurance in December, we only signed up my husband and myself because my son was still covered through the state sponsored plan through the end of 2006. I figured that I would call and add him to start his coverage in January.

Well, I couldn’t do that. The earliest I could add him to our plan was March. I had thought about getting some short term health insurance for him because he is 5 years old and likes to jump off everything, but I didn’t. With life going on, it slipped my mind.

It didn’t even hit me until a few minutes ago that yesterday was March 1st. Our son is now on our policy. Yay!

All three of us have health insurance, we are contributing to a retirement account, we have money in a savings account, our debt is going down, and next week we will be having our exam for life insurance policies. Our financial house is slowly but surely getting the solid foundation that it needs.


As With Many Things in Life, There’s the Good News and Then the Bad News…

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When you are focused on debt reduction, anything that involves or may involve spending non-budgeted money can really can bring you down. It hurts your progress and it does ding your morale.

We had something happen this weekend, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed out a little. But as I’m sitting here writing about it, I thought about actually listing what was good about what happened and what is bad. It couldn’t hurt.

But first I’ll tell you what happened. We were driving home from shopping, and our oil light went on around a turn and then went off again. We drove just a few blocks to a gas station and checked the oil. It was low so we put oil in and started back on our way home.

About halfway there, the oil light came on again and was flickering. We drove a little bit and we stopped at a gas station again. My husband checked the oil again and it was fine and also looked for leaks. Everything seemed ok.

So we left again. A little bit later, the light stopped flickering and stayed on and we could hear a tinking sound from the engine. We immediately pulled over and said that was that. We weren’t making it home by driving our car.

Now, here’s the good news:

1.) Where we pulled over had a huge shoulder free of snow to pull over onto (not the case with the entire road).

2.) The weather was unseasonably warm for this time of year and it was a beautiful day.

3.) Someone was nice enough to let a stranger in their home to use their phone to call for help.

4.) I renewed my AAA membership back in September (I was wondering back in September if we should renew it, but I did!) We saved money on the towing fees! Whew!

5.) A friend we called to see if he could pick us up was available and came out to give us a ride home. He told us that he almost didn’t have his cell phone with him when we called. Double whew!

6.) My son had the chance to see a tow truck in action close-up (he loved it and said he wants to be a tow truck driver when he grows up :)).

7.) Our car had an appointment this week for the mechanic already (ironically for an oil change as well as an alignment), so we know he has the time to at least look at it soon.

8.) When no one was looking I wrote “TOW ME” on our dirty trunk while waiting for the tow truck. It felt good to make a little bit of fun at the situation.

Now, for the bad news:

1.) I don’t have a clue how much the repair will cost for this problem.

2.) It’s our only car.

As you can see, something went wrong, but many things did go right. I feel better after doing this, and appreciating the things that did go right in this situation. Perhaps when life throws you a curveball you can give this a try and really sit and think about the good things. There may be more good than bad.


Free Book – Navigating Your Health Care for Dummies

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A little while ago, I was tipped off by City Girl’s Financial Blog that you could get a free book about health care. Free is good πŸ™‚

So, I went to the site and signed up to receive Navigating Your Health Care for Dummies. At the worst I could get more junk mail and spam in my inbox. The site is run through Aetna, so I trusted it somewhat. So far, no new junk mail and no new spam.

I’ve skimmed through it, and the book is in the traditional form of all of the Dummies books (easy to read with a little bit of humor in there). It is a quick read and a very basic introduction to Health Care. It has 62 pages and is 8.5″ x 5.5″.

To get your free copy, just visit the Plan For Your Health website here.