How do I obtain health insurance?

Health insurance coverage is usually obtained through an employer if a person is employed on a full-time basis. However, there are many exceptions. Employee benefits that include health insurance are often not available to part-time employees, and small employers, especially those with less than 5 employees, often do not provide health insurance coverage options.

Self-employed persons who do not have employees generally must obtain individual insurance. Self-employed persons and employees of small businesses sometimes can obtain health insurance through group endorsed insurance packages that include health insurance coverage. Some examples include teachers who obtain insurance through state teachers' associations instead of through their employers, lawyers who obtain insurance through their bar associations, small business owners or self-employed who obtain insurance through chambers of commerce, etc.

In employment, there are many different kinds of employee benefit plans available and a variety of ways that that health care coverage is paid for in the group setting. For instance, there may be employee welfare benefit plans in which participation is mandatory and the employer pays the premiums as a fringe benefit. On the other hand, there may be

  1. Plans in which employee participation is completely voluntary;
  2. Plans in which the employee may choose from different health care insurance offerings; 
  3. Health care insurance offerings where the employer pays some but not all of the premiums or pays for the employee but not for coverage of dependents;
  4. "Cafeteria plans" where a certain amount of money is available through a plan and the choice of how to use it is left to the employee. 

Persons who have reached Social Security eligibility age can obtain insurance through Medicare, (including primary and supplemental coverage), military dependents can obtain insurance through CHAMPUS and the medically indigent or disadvantaged can obtain health care coverage through Medicaid or through local medically indigent adult programs.