Make Sure You’re Covered: A Guide to Buying Health Insurance in the US

Make Sure You’re Covered: A Guide to Buying Health Insurance in the US

Nathalie Goldstein |Jul 31, 2019

From Regular Appointments to Unexpected Illnesses

Health insurance is one of the most talked-about topics in American politics, and for good reason — it is essential to one's health and financial well-being.

What Is Health Insurance and Why Do You Need It?

In America, it is important to pay attention to the costs of different medical services. These are the average costs of routine medical care procedures:

  • A 10-minute doctor visit is $68
  • An eye examination is $234
  • An emergency room visit is $1,233
  • An ambulance ride can range from $25 to $1,200

Fortunately, with the right coverage, you don’t have to pay the full amount of these medical bills out of pocket. This is where health insurance comes in handy.

Insurance is an arrangement created to spread the risk of potential costs over a larger pool of people. For health insurance, the costs include paying for the medical services required for everything from routine preventive care to major illnesses.

The organizations that manage and administer this risk include government agencies, private businesses and not-of-profit entities. These organizations will calculate the financial value of the risk and charge monthly premiums or payroll tax to their participants.

In return, participants will get peace of mind that in the event of a medical emergency they will not be responsible for paying all the expenses by themselves at once.

Different Aspects of Health Insurance

Health insurance can be an overwhelming topic due to the different types of health insurance available. In order to determine which health insurance is right for you, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Your desired monthly premium
  • Your deductible
  • Your amount of copay and coinsurance responsibilities
  • Your access to different health care providers and services

The Monthly Cost of Health Insurance

In order to finance the cost of hundreds of thousands of people's medical expenses, the administrators of health insurance charge a monthly fee, called a premium, for their coverage.

Health insurance monthly premiums will vary based on your location, age, preexisting conditions and income. You can compare different health insurance plans and their premiums using

Without any governmental support, Americans spend an average of $500 a month on health care monthly premiums. As mentioned, insurance plans can vary based on the state. California residents pay an average of $435 per month, while those residing in Wyoming pay an average of $865 per month.

Paying a Deductible

When choosing a health coverage option, you will need to pay attention to the deductible. This is the amount you are required to pay out of pocket before your health insurance will pick up the bill.

For example, a $1,000 deductible plan means you have to pay the first $1,000 of your medical expenses yourself before your insurance company will provide financial assistance. Typically, a lower deductible plan will result in higher monthly premium costs. You will need to calculate what is better for your budget: spreading out the costs monthly or paying more upfront at one time.

Health care plans can differ in how the deductible is managed. For example:

  • Preventive services (e.g. routine checkups) may be covered fully by your insurance provider even before you've paid your full deductible
  • Different services, such as prescription medicine and surgeries, may have different deductible levels
  • Family health care plans tend to have both individual deductibles, which apply to each family member, along with a combined family deductible amount

Copayment and Coinsurance Expenses

In addition to paying a monthly health insurance premium and agreeing to an annual deductible, you may also need to copay or coinsure for each medical visit you have.

Copayments are predetermined, flat fee amounts you will need to pay yourself for every medical service. For example, every time you visit your doctor, you may be required to pay a $20 copayment fee. This is an out of pocket expense and is not normally counted toward your annual deductible.

Coinsurance is a predetermined percentage of your health care expenses that you agree to pay. An 80/20 insurance plan simply means that after you have paid your deductible and copayment, the bill is further split between your insurance company and you. 80% of the bill should be paid by them, while you are responsible for the other 20%.

Types of Health Insurance Plans

There are many different types of health insurance plans, with the most common being:

Managed Care Plans

More affordable plans that outline the specific health care providers you can use. These plans can range in the flexibility of choosing your health care provider.

  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO): Limited number of health care providers, usually no insurance claims required.
  • Preferred Provider Plans (PPOs): More flexibility to choose health care providers, however higher costs and more paperwork required when choosing an "out-of-network" provider

Fee-for-Service Plans

Least restrictive plan in terms of choosing a health care provider. It allows you to choose the doctor or hospital of your choice; however, this also means you will be required to file insurance claims after the fact.

Health Savings Account

A tax savings benefit that allows you to use tax-free earnings on qualified medical expenses.

Catastrophic Coverage

Plans that only cover serious illnesses or injuries.

Supplemental Plans

Plans that cover specific cases, such as a hospital indemnity policy that pays a fixed amount per day that you are hospitalized. These are typically used to cover expenses that your normal health care insurance plan does not.

Buying Health Insurance Outside of Work

Most Americans are covered by employer-provided health insurance plans. However, there are options outside of work to get insured.

State Health Insurance

For lower-income Americans, Medicaid is a health insurance program offering free to low-cost plans. Each state has different income thresholds, so you will need to check with your state to see if you can qualify.

Private Health Insurance

For those with a higher income or desiring additional health care benefits, there are a number of private health insurance companies.

The Marketplace, available at, is operated by both the federal and state governments and helps Americans find affordable health care options from private insurance company providers. Shopping through the Marketplace can help you identify additional health care related tax credits and savings.

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How to Apply for a Business Credit Card

Myles Leva | July 31, 2019

Paying for Business Expenses Applying for a business credit card is something a small business should seriously consider for itself. Business credit cards can provide a range of benefits to a business. They allow a company to build up credit for better borrowing conditions down the road. They’re also quite easy to apply for. In this article, we’ll go over how to apply for a business credit card and other important points to note. What Is a Business Credit Card? A business credit card is a credit card that is intended for business expenses. These cards are not meant for any individual’s personal use, but they are available to businesses of all sizes. What Is a Business Credit Card Used For? Business credit cards are meant for business expenses, and as such, they come with several perks that you wouldn’t get with a normal credit card. Business credit cards typically have far higher credit limits than normal cards, but they are also harder to qualify for. 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How to Apply for a Business Credit Card Before you apply for a business credit card, you should make sure you’re eligible. For the most part, you only require the following to be able to apply for one: A legal name for your business. A business structure to apply with, such as a Limited Liability Corporation. An explanation of the nature of your business. You’ll typically be given a list of industry types to choose from. A tax ID number issued by the Internal Revenue Service Your roll in the business you’re representing Various business/financial information including: Annual revenue. Number of employees. Length of time in business. Estimated monthly expenses. If you have this information ready, you can apply for a business credit card. At this point, it would be wise to shop around and find the best option for your business. Your decision on the business credit card you choose will have larger ramifications than your choice of a personal credit card. 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Everything You Need to Know About Filing Your Own Taxes

Katie Macomb | July 31, 2019

It's Not Fun, but It Has to be Done Benjamin Franklin wrote a 1789 letter that states, “But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Even at the United States’ early beginnings, federal taxes were a necessary evil to fund various public projects and administrative costs. Today, federal taxes serve much of the same purpose. While virtually no one likes to prepare and file their taxes, it is a necessity if you want to avoid fines and further hassle. It is no secret that preparing and filing your taxes is notoriously complicated. Many people lament that it should not be so difficult to pay the government. However, some of the complications allow people to save money if they discover specific tax benefits. Knowing how to file your own taxes may be a good option if your tax situation is relatively straightforward, or if you are willing to learn the process. Why Do You Need to File Your Taxes Every Year? The short answer is that federal law requires that most individuals file taxes annually. Income taxes are assessed every year based on your income earned during that period. You then pay a percentage of that income to the government, less any deductions, adjustments, or credits that you qualify to receive. If you do not file (and pay) your taxes, then you may be assessed penalties and interest. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can even go as far as garnishing your wages and repossessing your property if you do not file and pay as required. The Benefits of Filing Your Own Taxes If you are one of the 43% of Americans that are doing your own taxes, you are certainly not alone. Roughly 53 million people prepared and filed their own taxes in 2018. There are many benefits to filing your own taxes, including: Saving money: Hiring a tax professional is expensive, and many people can prepare and file their returns on their own, completely free of charge. Control: Some people like knowing the exact information that is included in their return and being able to control the data, and for some, knowing precisely how the numbers work out, is comforting. Gain helpful information: When you prepare your taxes, you can see what items saved you money this year or which issues you should address so you can save money next year. While filing your own taxes is complicated, it can be beneficial under the right circumstances. There are several programs online that walk you through the process to help ensure you are taking advantage of all of your available deductions and credits. The Drawbacks of Filing Your Own Taxes In addition to the benefits, there are also some disadvantages to filing your own taxes. These include: Time and effort: Preparing and filing your taxes takes time and work You have to sift through financial information and deal with concepts that you may not understand well. 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Some of the most common items that you will need include: Social Security numbers for you, your spouse, and any dependents Information about wages, such as W2s or 1099s Investment income information Documents that represent any other source of income Information regarding adjustments to income, such as student loan interest paid, IRA contributions, and health savings account contributions, just to name a few Information regarding potential credits, including, for example, child care expenses, education expenses, or retirement savings contributions Data about any tax payments that you may have made throughout the year Keeping good records will help make tax preparation easier at the beginning of the year. [youmaylike] The Basics About What You Can Claim When Filing You must pay income taxes on all your income earned throughout the year. However, that income is reduced by a few things. The further you can reduce your taxable income, the less you tax you will pay. 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