Before selecting a plan, do your homework:
- Find out if the insurance company is licensed in your state. Know the name of the underwriter and call your State Department of Insurance or visit its Web site.
- Look up the rating of the company. You can do this online at www.ambest.com (each rating report costs $4.95, payable by credit card). Or try your public library's reference department for Best's Insurance Reports or Standard & Poor's Insurance Company Ratings Guide. You can call Standard & Poor's at (212) 438-2400 and ask for the ratings of up to five companies.
"Look for at least an A rating," suggests John Dietrick, CEO of Monarch Management Corporation, Topeka, Kan., which offers student policies. (A++ is tops.)
- Find out what's covered and what's not. If a plan duplicates too much of the coverage provided by your primary plan, it's probably not a good deal. And don't assume everything will be covered, says Dietrick. If medical records submitted with a claim show that it's related to a pre-existing condition, it may not be paid, he says.