Why insure as a family ?
Health Insurance – The most natural thing in the world is to want your nearest and dearest to be treated exactly the same as you are. Arranging your insurance as a family is one way to achieve that. It avoids the ugly, inequitable situation where you have full health cover, but your relatives are left struggling.
The case for Family Health Insurance is strong, in an ideal world. But how does it shape up in real life, where we have to take into account costs and practicalities?
Well, it depends on your personal situation – most obviously, on your employer. But for many families, Family Health Insurance can be the best way to pay for health insurance.
The biggest benefit is that under a family plan, your family will be kept together in the world of medicine. You can often be treated in the same hospitals by the same practitioners, enabling you to build up long-term relationships of trust.
When you entrust your young child to a doctor, it may well be somebody you have already been treated by yourself – that is, somebody you have found to be reliable.
Doing things together is a particular benefit if your policy includes preventative care. ‘Preventative care’ refers to the type of healthcare aimed at keeping you healthy, rather than waiting until you fall ill.
It can include advice on diet and nutrition, fitness advice, regular health checkups, and so on. All these activities tend to most helpful if a family goes through them together.
For example, advice on diet could be tailored towards making sure family meals are as healthy as possible, and many families have benefitted from setting up a family exercise plan.
On a purely practical level, anything that involves regular appointments is much easier when done as a family.
Arranging for the family to attend a regular clinic together – either in one joint appointment, or each family member being seen in turn – is much, much easier than trying to get each family member to a separate appointment on a different day.
One more benefit – less administrative hassle. This might seem trivial, but to anybody who has had to deal with the mountain of paperwork generated by medical cover, it is anything but.
When your entire family is covered by one policy, you will be able to keep all the paperwork together. You will only have to learn what is and isn’t covered for one scheme, rather than trying to hold in your head two or three different types of exemptions.
How it works
The most common way to pay for Family Health Insurance is through the employer of the family’s main breadwinner. Exactly how this is arranged will depend on the employer – and there can be a great deal of variation.
Some of the most generous employers’ insurance schemes will include comprehensive family cover as a default.
How to improve your family health cover
“Find a new job”. That’s the answer I got from one person I asked about this. He was only half joking; the people with the best insurance deals are often those who have been able to get a good deal through their employer.
But, clearly, this isn’t generally the best way to go about things in practice. You can’t just change your job at will (if you can, you’re a lot luckier than the rest of us!), and you will need to look at other ways of getting better Family Health Insurance.
Ask your employer about what options they provide for getting better cover for your family by paying an extra premium. This is not possible under some schemes, but it is always worth asking.
You may be able to get Family Health Insurance through a group insurance scheme not connected to your employer. Unions, professional groups and even social associations may band together to buy insurarance, and this can include family cover.
Generally, though, if your company insurance plan does not cover what you need, you’re going to have to go it alone.
Going it alone
I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on getting Family Health Insurance through your employer, simply because that is the usual way. However, it is entirely possible to arrange cover outside of the corporate umbrella.
This may cost you more (one report from 2004 finds that the average monthly cost of Family Health Insurance was $334), but the price is often justified by better coverage and by coverage more suitable for the particular needs of your family.
The key to getting a good deal on Family Health Insurance is to know exactly what you’re buying, and to compare prices and plans until you find the perfect deal. The right deal is out there – you just need a bit of persistence in order to find it.