Finding health insurance on your own

    Highmark Blue Shield offers one-stop shopping

    Most Americans still get their health insurance at work, but more than 560,000 Pennsylvanians lost their work-based coverage between 2000 and 2007. WHYY considers some of the options when you’re looking for health insurance on your own.

    Listen: [audio:090904temarket.mp3]

    Wilmington insurance broker Frank Hulmes helps people sort through policies from different companies. He gets a commission when he matches a health plan with a client.

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    Hulmes: The first thing I point out to them is the difference between insurance and benefits. Benefits, that’s your reward for working for this wonderful employer. You work here and now you get to see a doctor for a $20 co-pay, you have your drug card and all that. But when you are buying it on your own, you gotta look at it more as a financial tool, insurance is purely financial protection.

    For healthy, young people, Hulmes can often find a plan for $100 to $175 a month. Clients in their 60s pay as much as $700 for a policy with a $1500 deductible.

    This year, Highmark Blue Shield opened the first two health insurance retail stores in Pennsylvania. Darcy Ruch manages Highmark Direct in Mechanicsburg. She says lots of her customers start their search online.

    Ruch: Most often they come in with thousands and thousands of screen prints saying I just can’t navigate this please help me.

    Shoppers are ushered into a private consultation room where an associate tries to figure out what customers can afford and the amount of up-front costs they are willing to pay out before their insurance kicks in.

    Ruch: When we first opened, there weren’t a lot of individuals coming in that knew a lot about individual products, they’d come in and drop their group card and say: ‘I wanna buy this.’

    Store manager Darcy Ruch say those work-based plans, with no co-payments and very low-deductibles are either very expensive or unavailable.

    Highmark says its retail store customers include seniors looking for supplemental coverage, recent college graduates, and small business owners.

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