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Ask the Health Insurance Expert

I recently started a new job but my employer does not offer health insurance. I'm looking for affordable health insurance. Is there anything I can do to lower my premium?

Affordable health insurance is available, but you must shop around to find it. Get insurance quotes from several companies for comparable policies to help you choose the best coverage for your dollar.

To lower the premium, consider changing your co-insurance ratio--that's how much you pay after you've met your deductible. A common ratio is 80/20, which means after meeting the deductible, the insurer pays 80 percent of the bill and you pay 20 percent. If you change the ratio so you pay more, your premium will go down.

Another option is to choose a high-deductible plan paired with a health savings account. High-deductible plans, called major medical health plans or catastrophic health care plans, protect you in case of medical emergencies, but they don't cover routine doctor visits.

With the health savings account, you build up savings to pay your share of medical expenses. Contributions to the account are tax deductible, just like an individual retirement account (IRA); withdrawals are tax-free, and interest that accrues is tax-deferred. Unlike flexible savings accounts, unused money rolls over from one year to the next, so that the money is available anytime you need it.

Keep in mind that when you shop for individual insurance, your current health will impact how much you pay in premiums. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well to control cholesterol and quitting smoking are things you can do to improve your chances of qualifying for better health insurance rates.

For more, see 12 ways to lower your health insurance premiums.

Last updated: Feb. 1, 2011
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