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Choosing a Health Insurance Agent

Every year, more Americans find themselves shopping for health insurance. According to consumer advocates, five key pieces of information can make the process of finding quality health insurance so much easier:

Fact #1: Whether you buy direct or work with an agent, health insurance costs the same.
State regulations require health insurance providers to publish their rates on a regular basis. In fact, rates stay the same regardless of where a consumer purchases their policy. Getting outside assistance with health insurance quotes saves a lot of time and won't cost you any more money.

Fact #2: Tight competition for new customers has led some agents to position their offerings as discount insurance.
In fact, agents and providers cannot simply lower their rates on a whim. State agencies must confirm discount insurance rates, which are available only to members of qualifying groups, such as:

  • Small business associations
  • Professional associations
  • Fraternal organizations
  • Alumni groups
  • Military or law enforcement organizations

In some states, agents can help individuals qualify for membership in an organization that can help them obtain discount insurance.

Fact #3: Accurate health records can help your broker find a cheap health insurance policy.
Although health insurance rates are set in advance and registered with the state, differences between policies can be so complex that it can seem like agents offer relative discounts. In reality, skilled brokers can use an applicant's health record to identify highly specific policies offered at below-average prices.

Fact #4: Reputable health insurance brokers give clients appropriate time to decide on the right policy.
Health insurance providers often face criticism for the actions of third party marketing companies that rely on aggressive sales tactics. Licensed, professional health insurance agents don't go door-to-door to promote a cheap health insurance policy with a tight deadline. Instead, trusted brokers and agents carefully select a few strong recommendations for clients to review in their own time.

Fact #5: Reputable health insurance agents offer free quotes.
In the quest to find a cheap health insurance policy, some shoppers are getting swindled by middlemen who claim to be able to find a bargain in exchange for an upfront fee. Other shoppers sign up for online services that suggest a monthly membership fee can grant access to discount insurance programs. Law enforcement officials advise consumers to avoid paying for publicly available information, like health insurance rates. Legitimate brokers and agents do not charge for consultations. Because they earn commissions from health care companies, they happily provide free quotes to prospective clients.

Sources
Berkshire Eagle
How Stuff Works
Kiplinger
New York Times

About the Author
Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.

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