More about family health insurance policies

When you're young and in good health, you often live for the now. Some have the qualifications to find employment including health insurance in the compensation package, but most take what is available and let things drift until responsibilities come along. Then you start asking questions about what you want in the future. It starts with a partnership or marriage. It gets more urgent when children appear on the scene.

If you found a job with a health insurance package, you can usually add your new partner or spouse to the plan. The first issue is whether that plan gives all the cover you need. Should there be gaps, you buy top-up cover. Then as the family grows, does the plan include children and any other dependents? Overnight, you become experts in the detail of the employer's plan and carefully research what the private health insurance companies offer to give the additional cover.

If your job has no health plan, but one of you had the wisdom to begin a private health policy, it is usually possible to upgrade to a family policy. Because you have track record with a company, this is less of a hassle than finding a completely new company for the family.

If you're starting with no health cover, you will find there are major differences in the premiums quoted. Through sites like this, you get instant quotes from multiple health insurance companies. By using two or three sites like this, you can rapidly accumulate a daunting array of information about different policies and quoted prices. This makes choosing the right cover a real challenge. The first step is take a cold-blooded look at the family finances. This is not a time for sentimentality or blind hope. You need hard figures on what you can afford to pay not just now, but in the foreseeable future. Remember your credit score drops if you start a policy and then find you cannot afford the premiums.

The next step is to decide exactly who is to be included in the policy and what range of cover you want - just basic treatment options working up to long-term care insurance. Remember the larger the group and the wider the age range of the people to be included, the more the premium is likely to be. The more conditions, illnesses and injury possibilities you add, the more expensive the policy is likely to be. This drives you back to your financial calculations. The way to lower the premiums is to accept a higher deductible or copayments. But this needs a careful calculation. How much will you pay each year as self-insurance through the deductibles or expenses, against the saving in the annual premium. Weigh the benefits against foreseeable costs to make the right decision on which family health insurance policy to buy.

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