Posted by Elisabeth Leamy, Tue Oct 26 2010, 12:29am

The new health care law is slowly phasing in, but your money and medical needs may not be slow at all

The new health care law is slowly phasing in, but your money and medical needs may not be slow at all. They may be urgent. Here are five things you never knew about health insurance that could help you save money and time.

Book Physicals for December

It's a savvy idea to book your annual physical for December. That way, if your insurance benefits have run out, you can move the appointment to January. You'll have a new slate of benefits, but you won't have put off checking up on your health for too long. This trick can also work for dental work you need. Schedule half for December, the other half for January when your new benefits kick in.

Check up on your College Kid's Health Plan

Many colleges charge for health care, even though students are covered under their parents' plans. That's right. You may be paying twice for healthcare coverage if you have college-aged kids. Buried in the reams of enrollment and tuition paperwork could be a clause about the student health service on campus. It can cost thousands of dollars. If your son or daughter can access your own insurance company's doctors and hospitals in the area where the college is located, you could forego this double coverage. And, because of new provisions that just went into effect, you can cover your perennial student up to the age of 25. Most insurers used to kick them out at age 22.

Private insurance can cost less than a group plan

Sometimes private insurance is cheaper than group insurance. If you're young and healthy, an individual health insurance plan may be less expensive than the one offered at work. Why? Because the work plan must accept everyone, so it is priced to cover the insurance company's risk. A girlfriend of mine discovered she could get a private policy for herself for $115 a month. Adding herself to her husband's plan would have cost $350 a month!

Form Your Own Group

Another way to save: some states let you form your own insurance group --and a group can be just two people! Different states have different standards. For example, one state stipulates that each employee in the group must work at least 25 hours a week. Another requires the group to submit tax forms to verify it is actually connected to a business. Check with your state insurance commissioner to see if this is possible in your state. Go to for links to every state insurance commissioner.

Call your insurance commissioner

Speaking of insurance commissioners, they are vital public servants, but people don't seem to know about them. People ask me all the time where to turn for help with a stubborn insurance company. The answer is your state insurance commissioner. If you have had a legitimate claim denied, follow these steps to show you've done your homework, and then file a formal complaint with your state insurance commission.
•Send your appeal quickly. Often there is a 30-40 day limit.
•Mail it certified so you have proof it arrived.
•Request a detailed written denial so you can prepare a strong counterargument.
•Ask the benefits administrator at your work for help. The insurer wants to keep your company's business.
•Get your state insurance commissioner involved. Find yours at