Texas Realtors: Your guide to better health insurance!

November 16, 2015 Jack

5 Minute Guide: How to shop smart for health insurance

We know Real Estate agents have unique challenges when choosing a health plan.  As independent contractors, you don't have an HR rep to help you and you're at the mercy of whatever is available on the individual market. You're busy and you could figure it out if you had time, but you'd rather be selling houses!

We've put together this helpful guide, just for Texas real estate agents, to cover what you need to know. We've also included a link to our site that'll automatically match you to a plan that fits the best and costs the least.

In this guide:

  • Insurance trends impacting Real Estate Agents:
    • Changes to doctor networks
    • High deductibles and your care needs (prescriptions and conditions)
    • Increasing number of options and plan types
    • Decline in dental insurance
  • Health Insurance 101: Understanding new plan structures and key terms

Trends impacting Real Estate Agents

In Texas this year, the large "PPO" doctor networks are disappearing, deductibles are rising, and companies are paying less and less for spouse and dependent coverage.  Many real estate agents are used to being on their spouse's plan, but if their company is no longer contributing much, it's likely not be the best deal anymore!

market trends

These trends can be frustrating to independent professionals like Real Estate Agents.  You've probably heard people complaining about them. However, they can be a huge opportunity to save money if you're a smart shopper!  Let's look deeper into each one.

Knowing your doctor networks

Many people know the two most common doctor network types: PPOs and HMOs.  If you're a long time PPO user, the idea of having to move to an HMO may make you shudder. The reality is there are other network types in between PPOs and HMOs:

doctor network chart

This year, we are seeing a lot of new EPO networks.  With an EPO, you don't need a primary care doctor and you can see any specialist you'd like that's in-network.  The only difference between a EPO and a PPO is and EPO doesn't cover out of network benefits.  But as long as you're smart about choosing a plan that has your doctors in network, this can be a great money saving opportunity!

If your doctors happen to be in an HMO or if you don't have preferred doctors yet, the HMO can be a great money saving choice.  These aren't the HMOs of the past with long wait times and long lines.  You can get referrals online (check with your provider) and going to see some specialists (like an OBGYN) no longer requires a referral.

The most important thing is knowing which networks and plans your doctor will accept.  You could search all of the individual plan sites, or you can use our universal search tool at TakeCommandHealth.com. As you tell about your insurance needs, use our doctor preferences section to enter your doctor's name then sort on plans that your doctors accept!

Your Care Needs

Fundamentally, we buy health insurance to protect ourselves and our families from catastrophic events like cancer, serious car wrecks, etc. that could lead to high medical bills and bankruptcy.  The reality though is hopefully those kinds of events are few and far between in your life.  And as we'll show later when discussing a plan's max-out-of-pocket, there is not much difference between a Bronze plan and a Gold plan when it comes to handling these kind of events.  Long story short, don't buy a plan worried about "what ifs".

In most years, which plan you should choose should be driven largely by your known health needs.  This is because in most years a person's cost are about 75% predictable.  Here's what I mean:

predictable costs

The challenge to choose the right plan then is figuring out which plan will pay for more of the stuff you need.  You could spend hours going through the fine print, or you could use our website to do it quickly and easily!  With Take Command Health, you can search for care needs like "having a baby" or "diabetes" or "physical therapy" and we'll run the numbers for you.  This way when you know you need care, you're getting the most for your money!

Know (and access) all of your options!

If you were relying on your spouses plan or even if you're used to shopping on the individual market, it's important to know all of your options.  Many people will visit Healthcare.gov or talk to a broker, but in both situations, you are only going to see a fraction of what's out there!

shop all options

At Take Command Health, we help you quickly search and compare plans from all the major carriers on the exchange, off the exchange, and even include faith-based sharing programs like Medi-Share.  If you're eligible, we'll help you automatically apply tax credits without having to hassle with the exchange or paperwork.

Decline in (traditional) dental insurance

Dental insurance is now almost completely separate from health insurance and it's almost always a bad deal!  Traditional dental insurance only works if someone (like a company) is helping you pay for it.  Otherwise, if you take the time to read the fine print, you'll realize that with waiting periods, maximum limits, and exclusions, it's very very hard to get more out of your dental insurance than you put in.  We compare it to an expensive layaway plan or pawn shop where they hold your money, charge you interest and fees, and then give you a little bit back when you visit the dentist.

What we really like and recommend are discount dental plans over traditional insurance.  Discount plans are not insurance, they are like club memberships.  You pay an annual fee and you get access to the same dentists and same rates as people who purchase traditional dental.  There are many plans and it's easy to find one that your dentist works with.  An annual membership costs the same as about 2 months of dental insurance.

dental insurance

Dental insurance is a great way to know if you're being "sold" by a broker or website.  They get HUGE commissions for selling dental insurance because it's a money-maker for the insurance companies, not really a good investment for a Real Estate Agent.

At Take Command Health, we've set up partnerships with several discount dental providers.  We'll help you find your dentist and enroll separately from your health insurance.  That advice alone will save you about $50/mo per person.

Health insurance is not cheap, but you can maximize your health dollars if you're a smart shopper.  If you found these tips helpful, please share with other Real Estate Agents on social media.  Let them know they have better health options!  Let us help you quickly help you search for your doctors, see which plans best cover your needs, and search plans on and off the exchange to find the best for you.  Oh, did I mention our service is 100% free for Real Estate Agents?

letsgo

 

Health Insurance 101: Understanding Plan Structures and Terms

Basics: Plan Structures

Health reform has changed how health insurance coverage works.  In the past, it was difficult and tricky to shop for plans that had maternity coverage.  Now, every plan has maternity (yes, even if you're a single, 60 year old male).  The difference is how each plans pays for it with copays, coinsurance, etc (more on that in a minute).  In the past, you didn't want to leave your or your spouse's group plan because you weren't sure you could get covered. Now, every plan is guaranteed issue (as long as you pay!).

The most important thing to know is that preventive care is now covered at no additional cost.  Many people will panic when they see plans with high deductibles because they need their annual physicals, their kids need immunizations, or their visit to the OBGYN.  Guess what?  All of those things are covered at no cost.  Here's a helpful chart of what's always "covered" and what's always "covered at no cost":

whats included chart

It's also worth noting that dental coverage is now separate from health.  You won't find your dentists or dental coverage on these plans anymore. We'll talk more about dental in a later section.

Basics: Deductible, Copay, Coinsurance, Max-out-of pocket

You've probably heard all of these terms, but it's important to understand how they all work together:

know the terms deductible copay coinsurance

Finally, the most important term (and often overlooked) is the max-out-of-pocket (or MOOP).  The MOOP is the most you'll pay if you need a lot of care.  This could be things you know about--like having a baby, managing a condition that requires expensive medications or hospital time--or things you don't know about--accidents, critical illnesses, etc.  What people sometimes forget however is that the premiums you pay each month are not included.  There's a simple formula you can use if you know you need lots of care to pick a plan:

max out of pocket

 

Health insurance is not cheap, but you can maximize your health dollars if you're a smart shopper.  If you found these tips helpful, please share with other Real Estate Agents on social media.  Let them know they have better health options!  Let us help you quickly help you search for your doctors, see which plans best cover your needs, and search plans on and off the exchange to find the best for you.  Oh, did I mention our service is 100% free for Real Estate Agents?

letsgo

 

Win at Health Insurance

We're a growing community of insurance nerds. We make health insurance less confusing for individuals and small businesses.

Have a health insurance question?

Have a health insurance question