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2. How do you get it?

Most people get health insurance through their employers or organizations to which they belong. This is called group insurance. Some people do not have access to group insurance. They may choose to purchase their own individual health insurance directly from an insurance company. Many Americans get health insurance through government programs that operate at the national, State, and local levels. Examples include Medicare, Medicaid, and programs run by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense.

Group Insurance

Group health insurance is typically offered by employers. Or, if you are a member of a union, professional association, or other group, you may be able to get group coverage through that organization.

Some employers allow employees to choose between several plans, including both indemnity insurance and managed care. Other employers offer only one plan. Some group plans offer dental and/or vision benefits as well as medical benefits. So it is important to compare plans to find the one that offers the benefits you need most. Once you enroll in a health insurance plan, you usually cannot change to another plan until the next open season, usually set once a year.

When group health insurance is an employee benefit, your employer usually pays a portion or all of the premiums. This means your costs for health insurance premiums will be lower than they would be if you paid the entire premium alone.

When you get group insurance through membership in an organization, you usually will benefit from being a member of a large group. You may pay less for premiums than an individual would pay. However, the organization often does not pay a share of the premium, meaning you may be responsible for paying the entire premium yourself.

Individual Insurance

If you are self-employed or your employer does not offer health insurance, you may not have access to group insurance. You may, however, be able to purchase individual coverage directly from an insurance company. When you buy your own health insurance, you will be responsible for paying the entire premium rather than sharing the cost with an employer. You should shop around to find a plan that fits your needs at a price that you are willing to pay.

Most self-employed workers are able to deduct their health insurance premiums from their Federal taxable income, providing them with an important tax saving. Most States also offer similar tax preferences. If you are self-employed and buy individual health insurance, you should consult a tax advisor to find out if you are eligible for this deduction.

Insurance plans differ greatly from one company to another and, within an insurance company, from one plan or product to another. Some plans have multiple products (options) from which you can choose; read carefully through the "fine print" to be sure you understand the various choices.


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