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    Health Care Reform:

    Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

    Self-employment also means handling your own health care.

    Managing Your Own Benefits

    An Array of Options continued...

    Web sites -- such as, among others -- can yield instant quotes and give you an idea of rates based on your location, age, and other factors. Your state department of insurance may be able to provide you with names of companies that sell individual policies.

    "Talk to friends and business associates who are also self employed," Fairbrother suggests. Ask them what works and what doesn't.

    "Look also at organizations you may belong to," Flannagan says. These might offer group plans, which are generally less expensive than individual ones. One often-overlooked source of insurance is your college alumni organization. Call your school, or the Alumni Insurance Agency and Administrators at 800-726-2422.

    You might also ask the agent who handles your homeowners' or car insurance if they write health insurance. According to Flannagan, most do. If your agent has never mentioned this, there may be a good reason: Commissions are usually lower, so your agent may be less motivated to market the product.

    Flannagan cautions self-employed workers to ask up front about family coverage if they have dependents. Some plans, she says, don't cover spouses and children.

    Contact at least three to five companies so you can do some comparison shopping, says Fairbrother. In general, expect to pay more for fee-for-service plans than managed care plans. Be aware that some managed care plans increase the premium as you change age brackets, perhaps every 10 years.

    Researching the Plans

    Before deciding, consider doing some research on the company's rating. A.M. Best and Standard and Poor's offer rating information. Another group, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, posts report cards on various plans. The Health Insurance Association of America also offers many tips on its Web site about buying health insurance.

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