Obtaining Health Insurance By Joining An Association Or Guild
If you belong to a professional or trade organization, find out what benefits it offers to members. Generally, the more that is required to join an association, the more likely the association offers benefits to members. For example, you are more likely to find health insurance offered to members of a bar association for lawyers than a looser association of people who only come together because they all play cards.
If you don't belong to such an association, but are eligible to join one, it could be worth the effort to find out what benefits are offered to members.
If the association has health coverage:
- Find out what health condition and other qualifications are necessary before you join.
- Also find out about whether there is an exclusion for pre-existing conditions -- and, if so, how long it lasts.
- When thinking about the cost of premiums, include the cost of dues for admission into the association.
Watch for scams.
While associations are a valid way to obtain health insurance, there are the occasional scams to watch for.
- Some associations purchase health insurance through a trust located in another state. While the insurance is purchased in the state in which you reside, it may be governed by the regulations -- or lack of them -- in the state where the master policy is issued. Many legitimate associations may offer policies like these. It's sometimes difficult to tell the good guys from the companies that will reunderwrite you (raise rates if you file claims). The scams often even have newsletters, group discounts and other benefits. Eventually healthy people leave, rates become too high, and most people drop the coverage -- or the company cancels it.
- Some associations only exist to sell health insurance. Their insurer may refuse to pay claims on the basis that the association is not a real association. Or the insurer may not be regulated or certified by your state insurance department.
- Low initial rates can often be followed by steep increases.
- Some association plans have been sued for not paying claims.
Before proceeding, check with your State's insurance department to see if complaints have been filed against an association or the plan it sells. If you find that the insurance is from a company that is not licensed in the state in which you live, contact your state insurance department to check out the situation. To find contact information for your state's insurance department, see: www.naic.org
NOTE: For other means of obtaining health insurance despite an existing health condition, click here.