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Navigating maze of options on health insurance

SACRAMENTO â?? Buying health insurance is no one’s idea of fun.But for many folks who have lost a job, just graduated from college or maxed out their COBRA, it’s a necessity.
One of those is 60-year-old Nancy Thompson of Camino, who lost her shipping office job at Sierra Pacific’s mill last year. This month, the COBRA health coverage from her former employer ran out.Determined to stay covered, she went shopping for health insurance online and found it an unpleasant experience.

Using one of the many comparison sites for group health insurance, she started filling out her online application.”It was overwhelming. There were so many questions and I started feeling uncomfortable,” Thompson said. “I didn’t even finish filling it out.”That’s when the e-mails, phone calls and letters started arriving from brokers or agents eager to sign her up.
Frustrated, she opted to buy a $541-a-month Aetna policy from a Citrus Heights insurance broker who came to her home. (Her husband, who is retired, has health coverage through Medicare.)

“It can be a very onerous process,” said Sam Gibbs, senior vice president of, a Mountain View-based online insurance site. “You have to fill out extensive medical questionnaires about doctor visits, prescriptions. …
It takes some time and throws a lot of people off.”

Many individuals qualify for a policy instantly, he said, but for those with complicated medical histories, “it can take weeks to get an answer back.”
Despite the difficulties, most people can’t risk going without insurance.
Whether it’s done online, by phone or in person with an agent, consumers should do some homework before contacting a broker.

“Before handing over your personal information, it doesn’t hurt to spend 45 seconds to check and see if a broker or agent is licensed or in good standing,” said Darrel Ng, spokesman for the California Department of Insurance. The Department of Insurance’s site has a handy list of toll-free phone numbers and Web sites of the nearly 70 health insurance companies licensed in California, ranked by market share. There’s a scorecard to compare quotes from insurers.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 at 6:07 am and is filed under Health Insurance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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