Health Insurance Checklist: When You're Ready to Buy

Be ready to fill out the application on the day you enroll. It doesn't matter where you do it -- at work, online (if you're buying insurance from your state's Marketplace), or with an insurance broker. Use this checklist to remind you of what to do before you decide on your insurance.

  • Have Social Security numbers for everyone you want on your insurance policy, or a document number if you are a lawfully present immigrant.

  • Have the gross salary for your family, or just yourself if you're not covering anyone else. Make sure you have W2 forms for everyone in the household who is employed. For people who are self-employed or do not have a regular salary, include an estimate. This is important if you want to see if you qualify for help paying for your premium through your state’s Marketplace

  • If you have health insurance, have policy numbers for everyone in the household.

  • Have the list of providers you want ready. That way you can check each plan's network for them. Make sure you include specialists and other health care professionals for all family members. Also have a list of your preferred hospitals. Make note of the copays for in-network providers and for those not in-network.

  • Have the list of medicines your family needs. Know the names and the dosage you take. Use it to check the drug formulary for any plan you're considering. Make note how much the copay will be for each prescription. If you're not sure about all the medicines you need, ask your pharmacy to print a list of the medicines you've bought in the last year.

  • Look at the summary of benefits for any health plan you're considering if you haven't done it yet. Some employers and large health insurance companies have tools to help you decide what kind of benefits you need.

  • Review the details in each plan's essential benefits if you are not getting your insurance through your employer. Look for services you need, such as infertility treatment or gastric bypass, since not all states will include the same items.

  • Know how much you can afford each month to pay a premium. If you need help, see "How to Estimate What You’ll Spend on Healthcare."

  • If you're using your state's Marketplace, you'll find out how much financial help you can put toward your premium costs. This may lower your costs each month. You can find this information at www.healthcare.gov.

  • If you're using your state's Marketplace, have the information you need to have insurance payments sent directly from your bank account, including routing and account numbers. States may also take credit cards or checks.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sarah Goodell on November 14, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

U.S. Census Bureau: "Employment-Based Health Insurance: 2010."

Consumer Reports web site: "Choosing health insurance."

U.S. Department of Labor: "Your health plan and HIPAA ... making the law work for you."

HealthCare.gov: "Summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) and uniform glossary;" "Preventive care;" "Lifetime & annual limits;" "Grandfathered health plans;'' "Self-insured plan;" "Insurance basics;" "Find insurance options;" and "What's changing and when." 

WebMD : "How to Estimate What You'll Spend on Health Care."

Health Insurance 101: "Restricted annual lifetime limits" and "Individual plans."

Kaiser Family Foundation: "Navigator and in-person assistance programs: a snapshot of state programs" and "Explaining health care reform: Questions about health insurance exchanges."

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