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Health Care & Insurance

Our Health Care Rx

We cut to the chase and tell you how to find affordable coverage in tough situations.

In the midst of the debate over health care, I received an e-mail from an interest group helpfully providing me with a list of horror stories from people who couldn't get affordable health coverage. I forwarded the message to contributing editor Kim Lankford, our expert on health insurance -- who proceeded to suggest solutions to all their problems. "There certainly are health-insurance horror stories," she messaged back to me. "But I wonder how hard these people tried to find better deals."

And guess what? You can get better deals, says Kim. Even though the U.S. health-care system has been described as "terminally ill," there really is quite a healthy market for insurance in most states (except in places such as New York and New Jersey, where wrongheaded legislation keeps insurance costs high).

That's what distinguishes Kiplinger's coverage of health insurance from what you normally read and hear in the media. While Congress wrestles with 1,000-page bills that try to regulate just about every aspect of health care, we cut to the chase and tell you how to find affordable coverage even in tough situations (see Score Big Savings on Health Coverage).

As one of the top insurance reporters in the country, Kim uses her 15 years of experience to point you in the right direction, starting with, an online proxy for a nationwide health-insurance market. Need more help? Find an agent through the National Association of Health Underwriters. In Three Health-Insurance Mistakes to Avoid, Kim lays out three pitfalls to avoid when you're buying health coverage.


From her perspective, how does Kim view the health-care debate? For starters, our feisty editor is fed up with partisan scare tactics on both sides. On one hand, an elderly acquaintance of her mother's was frightened into thinking that health-care legislation would eliminate her Medicare-paid dialysis (it wouldn't). On the other side, says Kim, the legislation's supporters pay too much attention to the "plight" of healthy 25-year-olds, many of whom can already buy insurance for $100 per month or less -- no more than they probably pay for car insurance, not to mention their cell-phone plan.

In Kim's view, emotional appeals and bad economics cause people to make poor decisions, such as signing up for expensive COBRA coverage when they could probably get cheaper insurance elsewhere. And attention is diverted from what she considers the bigger issues, such as cutting insurers' administrative expenses and providing coverage to people with medical conditions who live in states that don't have well-funded high-risk pools.

A personal note. I've been covering health insurance since I started in journalism (one of my first assignments was a series on -- surprise -- why health care costs so much). I'm most intrigued by creative solutions that are targeted to specific problems and cost far less than making the current system even more unwieldy. Some examples: Minnesota's health-care plan for state employees that compensates providers based on results rather than procedures; a group purchasing plan in Texas for employees of small businesses who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford coverage; and Safeway's corporate program that rewards its workers' healthy behaviors with lower premiums.

What will be the outcome of the health-care debate? Read our outlook in A Makeover for Health Care, and stay tuned.

P.S. For smart ways to buy all kinds of insurance, visit our insurance center.