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Health Insurance for Solo Entrepreneurs

Health Insurance for the self-employed is just as important as health
insurance for employees - probably more so. Certainly, it's essential
for the self-employed to seriously consider exactly what type of
health insurance they really need.

Here are some tips for what you need to take into account when
considering your health and your health
insurance
needs.



For all your health insurance needs - no obligation quotes given online - what are you waiting for?



by Monikah J. Ogando

One of the most important benefits employed people enjoy is
health insurance coverage. It is also the single most costly
expense for self-employed entrepreneurs. So what can you do to
reduce ever increasing costs of health care coverage? Here are a
few tips.

1. If a medical bill seems excessive, try negotiating

Your doctor or the office manager who handles billing will
probably be flexible, provided you make a valid case. When one
woman in Texas was charged $900 for surgery and “consultation,”
she explained that she had visited the hospital just once, for
surgery; her bill was promptly cut by $370.

2.. Contact a medical bill “auditor”

Several services have a medical bill “auditing” system that
evaluates your medical bills to determine if errors occurred in
the billing process. Considering that 97 percent of hospital
medical bills contain errors, it’s no wonder why out-of-pocket
medical expenses are on the rise for consumers. Because the
typical hospital bill is extremely complicated, often containing
several hundred line-item charges, there is ample opportunity
for computer mistakes and accidental human error. Do a Google
search for medical bill auditors to find companies offering this
service.

3. You may get a tax break on your medical bills

Keep all your medical bills together and add them up at tax
time. If they exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income,
you may deduct the excess. Please note that these items also may
be included in the total: the cost of eye glasses, contact
lenses, physical therapy, x-rays, hearing aids, psychiatric
care, insurance and transportation to the hospital or doctor’s
office (at 30 cents a mile). There are phase-outs in some cases
based on adjusted gross income. Check with your professional tax
adviser.

4. Deduct 100% of your healthcare costs from your taxes

The IRS allows all self-employed to deduct 100% of health care
costs from their taxes by using Section 105 of the Internal
Revenue Code. To receive this deduction, you must do the
following:

a) Hire your spouse as an employee of your business.

b) Have your spouse receive health insurance in his or her name,
and include the family on the policy.

c) Pay your spouse a salary that will cover the costs of the
insurance.

d) Talk to your tax professional about planning for Section 105
on your taxes.

We all know your spouse is active in your business. Now, you can
equally recognize their contribution he or she makes – and get
Uncle Sam to give you a tax break.

5. Help for families with kids -- CHIP

All states have established new programs that help lower income
families with children to pay for health insurance for their
kids. Financed partly by the federal government, the Children’s
Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) operate either as an expansion
of the state’s Medicaid program or a subsidy for basic private
health insurance. Eligible families may be able to access
coverage for their children at greatly reduced premiums which
will vary depending upon family income. Contact your state
Department of Health or Insurance for more information.

6. Shop around

Hospital costs vary widely, especially between urban and rural
facilities. If your doctor has admitting privileges at more than
one hospital, find out if you can be admitted to the one that’s
less expensive. Keep in mind that hospitals operated by
non-profit foundations are usually less expensive than
investor-owned, for profit hospitals. To find out how much your
local hospitals charge, ask your doctor. Many states have Health
Services Cost Review Commissions, which compile such data.

7. Check for free clinics in your community

You and your entire family can save hundreds of dollars by
taking advantage of the many free screenings, immunizations, and
other health clinics offered by your local community or a town
near you. Numerous community hospitals and social services can
provide blood pressure checks, shots for your children, free
contraceptives and/or advice, and other preventative health care
at little to no cost.

8. Get a second opinion out of town

Believe it or not, your chance of undergoing an expensive
surgery or preventative procedure may depend solely on where you
happen to live. Statistics show that the frequency in which
certain medical procedures are performed varies widely from
location to location. For example, residents of New Haven,
Conn., are twice as likely to undergo a coronary bypass
operation as residents of Boston, Mass. What’s the reason for
this discrepancy? One Dartmouth Medical School expert, John E.
Wennberg, M.D., M.H.P., explains that certain operations are
simply more fashionable in some parts of the United States than
others. So, if you plan to get a second opinion prior to
surgery, consider going to a specialist in another city. In
addition, try to find out what the surgery rates for your
procedure are in different cities. HealthAllies.com also offers
this service online at www.healthallies.com. To get the names of
second-opinion doctors in your region, call the U.S.
government’s toll-free second-opinion hotline at 1-800-638-6833.

9. Don’t pay double for a second opinion

As you make arrangements for a second opinion, ask your doctor
to send copies of your medical records, x-rays, and lab tests to
the second-opinion doctor. These tests don’t need duplication;
your second doctor will have the information he or she needs –
and you don’t pay double.

10. Emotional stability

Your mental health is equally important as your physical health.
Do you have blue days once in awhile, or struggle with gray
winters? St. John’s Wort, an over-the-counter herbal supplement,
has been proven to increase positive moods. Before rushing to
your family physician for medication to make you feel better,
try supplements with a combination of expressing your feelings
with friends and a healthy lifestyle. Mood stabilizers are some
of the most costly medications on the market today. However, you
should be aware of the signs of stress or even depression. Give
yourself a simple screening test:

Do you have feelings of sadness and/or irritability? Has there
been a loss of interest in pleasure activities you once enjoyed?
Have there been changes in your weight or appetite? Have you
noticed changes in your sleeping pattern? Are you feeling
guilty? Do you have the inability to concentrate, remember
things or make decisions? Are you fatigued or have a loss of
energy? Do you experience restlessness or decreased activity
noticed by others? Do you have feelings of hopelessness or
worthlessness? Do you have thoughts of suicide or death?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, consider
consulting your family physician. If they recommend mental
health treatmen
t, it is more cost-effective to have your family
physician prescribe mood stabilizers instead of seeing a
psychiatrist. However, follow your doctor’s instructions on
counseling and referrals to mental health professionals.

11. Order your prescription drugs by phone, web or mail

There are many discount prescription drug benefits available for
a modest cost. Communicating for Agriculture and the
Self-Employed offers a free prescription card through PCS. This
program saves its members up to 40 percent at over 55,000
pharmacies nationwide. On average, CA members save $9.39 per
prescription order. You can enroll free on their Web site at
www.selfemployedcountry.org.

12. Ask your doctor to prescribe generic drugs

Medicine marketed under its scientific name is usually 50
percent cheaper and just as effective as brand-name versions. In
addition, look for generic drugs in the medicine you purchase
over the counter. For example, 100 generic aspirin may cost
$1.79; the same ingredients packaged under a well-known brand
name can cost more than $5 for 100 tablets. Consider, also, just
how important the new easy-to-swallow products are to your
comfort. The lesser price of some medicines may be comparably
easier to swallow when thinking about your budget.

13. Get enrolled in a group plan

For self employed people including those involved in small
businesses, individual health insurance can be extremely costly
– sometimes as much as 30 percent of your take home pay. By
joining associations like National Association for the Self
Employed (www.nase.org), you have the opportunity to enroll in a
group insurance plan with unique built-in cost controls.

14. Choose a higher deductible

Often for the healthy family, the number of visits to the doctor
totals less than $250 a year, a normally low deductible rate.
This low deduction rate, however, can end up costing you more in
the form of higher premiums. If your family has enjoyed good
health for a number of years, you may want to switch to a higher
deductible of $500 or $1000. You’ll notice greatly reduced
premiums.

15. Pay premiums annually

You avoid the service fee and may also receive a discount from
your insurance carrier. Check with your insurance agent about
how much money you can save if you pay your premium one time
during the year.

16. Make sure there’s a ceiling for out-of-pocket expenses for
catastrophic illnesses

About half of individual policyholders lack this important
provision, according to insurance experts, who recommend a major
medical policy with a stop-loss clause limiting policyholder
payout to $2,000 or $3,000.

17. Get educated about your health

Invest in your health by becoming information-rich. Read
publications about health care. Pay special attention to free
wellness publications like Inside Mayo Clinic at
www.mayo.edu/healthinfo/public.html or have on hand a book on
medical self-care, like The AAFP Family Health and Medical Guide
and The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. A wealth of
information is also available on the Internet.

18. Take advantage of free health advice

For free information booklets from the U.S. government about
nearly every health care topic you can imagine, simply write to
the Consumer Information Center in Pueblo, Colorado. The
government offers several dozen booklets on topics ranging from
nutrition, medical problems, mental health, to drugs, exercise
and weight control. To receive a catalog explaining these
booklets, write to:

Consumer Information Center PO Box 100 Pueblo, CO 81009
www.pueblo.gsa.gov (you can download booklets from this site)

Once again the U.S. Government comes through by providing a
number of toll free health care information phone services.
Topics are numerous, including hearing aids, cancer information,
Alzheimer’s disease, drugs and pregnancy issues. For information
on the health topics and phone numbers, call the National Health
Information Center at 1-800-336-4797.

19. Brush up on first-aid skills and become CPR certified.

Proper treatment of various accidents may reduce the number of
visits to the doctor, and can save lives in an emergency. It’s
important to always keep an updated medical kit in your home or
office.

Here are the basics for your first-aid kit:

bandage supplies, including a roll of 3 inch wide gauze,
individually packaged 4 inch sterile gauze pads, a roll of 1
inch bandage tape, butterfly bandage tape, and scissors elastic
bandages cotton swabs sterile dressings or towels pain reliever
(acetaminophen or ibuprofen) anti-inflammatory medicine
(ibuprofen) ipecac syrup (for use on advice of medical
professional to induce vomiting) tweezers hydrogen peroxide skin
creams, including hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion and
antibiotic creams an antihistamine (diphenhydramine for allergic
reactions) flashlight eye patch arm sling tongue depressors (to
be used as a finger splint) ice pack re-hydration fluids (such
as Pedialyte or Infalyte)

20. Take a lifestyle approach to wellness – every day

Take charge of your health by making simple changes in your
lifestyle. By following these seven basic rules of good health,
you’ll improve your chances of living a long, healthy, active
life.

Get eight hours of sleep per night. Eat breakfast every morning.
Cut down on snacks between meals. Keep within 10 pounds of your
recommended weight range. If you’re unsure what your weight
range should be check with your doctor. Exercise aerobically for
at least 30 minutes three times per week. Don’t smoke. Don’t
drink more than two alcoholic beverages per day. Take
recommended dosages of vitamins and supplements.

Copyright 2004, Monikah Ogando, Ogando Associates, Inc.

__________

Monikah Ogando is a highly skilled facilitator and charismatic
speaker. She continues to inspire her audience through her
expertise in Business Development, leadership effectiveness,
individual accountability and the values that guide excellence.

She practices what she speaks: an entrepreneur, Monikah leads
her own two companies, consulting firm Ogando Associates and
Exodus House Publishers and is a Team Member of Solo-E.com.

_________

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