Accidents happen. People get sick for all kinds of reasons. Without insurance, you’re taking a huge gamble that nothing bad will happen to you. Even if you’re young and healthy, it’s important to have at least basic insurance so that you can pay your bills if the worst should happen.

Preventative care is also extremely important. Some plans pay for annual physicals, tests, and more. These preventative visits save you money on healthcare in the long run and can help reduce serious health problems.

Unfortunately, it can be a challenge to choose the right health plan, especially in the United States. Many of the most affordable plans have high deductibles or very little coverage, which can put you in a tight financial spot should you need care, especially if you experience a major medical crisis.

So, how do you pick a health insurance plan? Here’s what you need to know about picking a health plan, plus 5 benefits to look for.

Healthcare Plan Basics

Before you start shopping for plans, it’s important to know the basics of how health insurance works in the United States. Whether you go through your employer for health insurance, use a state or federal marketplace, or buy insurance privately, you need to know what the costs and terms are.

When you sign up for a health plan, you’ll likely pay a monthly cost. This is known as the “premium.” Depending on your situation, part of your premium may be covered by your employer or a tax credit.

There’s also the deductible. This is the amount you’re responsible for before your health insurance will start paying for your care (preventative visits are still covered). High deductible plans are best for people who are generally healthy and wouldn’t need to go to the doctor unless there is an accident or unexpected illness.

You’ll also see requirements for networks and co-pays or coinsurance. A network refers to the doctors you can see without paying extra—these “in-network” doctors generally mean you’ll pay less out of pocket. You will pay a co-pay for many visits, even after you meet your deductible, so keep this in mind too.

Finally, each plan includes different benefits and out-of-pocket maximums. So don’t take anything for granted! Doing research is very important.

Veteran Health Insurance Plans and Options

Most people are limited to what their employer or marketplace offers, but veterans have additional options for insurance, which are often more affordable. There are government programs and veteran-specific private plans or plans that offer discounts in recognition of the veteran’s service.

You may not know about all of these options. Even family members of veterans can sometimes be eligible. There are lots of resources online to help you find out which programs are available and how to sign up for these plans. You deserve great health insurance, so take advantage of the discounts and benefits that come from your service.

How to Choose the Best Benefits Package for You

Regardless of your options, you need to think about your own needs when choosing an insurance plan. It’s not fun to do this kind of research, but it’s important to choose a benefits package that will meet your health needs.

Obviously, it’s important to find a plan that’s affordable for you. But how do you decide what is more cost-effective based on your unique health needs? That depends on what’s likely to come up for you. If you rarely need to go to the doctor, a plan that has a high deductible with low premiums might be the best choice.

If you have more complex needs, however, you’ll want something that covers more. Think about what might come up for you. Do you need vision coverage? Mental health benefits? Only you can decide what’s most important.

You also want to think about which doctors will be most convenient for you to visit. Do you have a doctor already, or an office you prefer? Make sure the plan you choose will allow you to continue seeing your preferred providers.

Unfortunately, you need to look at the fine print when it comes to choosing a health plan. Each one is different and you don’t want to find yourself on the hook for an expensive procedure when you thought your insurance would cover it.

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Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her wellness and education knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children. When she's not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practising yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

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