YOU ASK:

How soon can I start to use health insurance when I buy it?

WE ANSWER:

You are covered once the policy becomes effective, except for those that come with a waiting period. As for insurance that is sponsored by your employer, you can actually be covered as soon as you give the HR department authorization to deduct your share of the premiums from your salary. We advise you to check on this, however, because this also depends on the HR policies of your employer.

For those who are buying individual health insurance, the coverage may be effective once the results of your health exam come in.

That means that you can get almost immediate coverage with your health insurance, once all the paperwork and payments have been ironed out.

However, being able to use your health insurance may be another story. Most health insurance plans have a waiting period before you can use your insurance. That means any indicated illnesses that occur within the waiting period will not be paid by the insurance company.  This prevents instances where you sign up for insurance knowing that you'll get sick the next day or while on your way to the hospital. Waiting periods may range from 3 months, 6 months to 1 year.

For instance, there is a waiting period of 6 months for heart diseases. If you need a heart bypass three months into your policy, the insurance will not pay for any of the expenses because the medical procedure is still within the waiting period as stipulated in the insurance policy.

But don't worry, these are usually only for specified conditions. If you figure in an accident after your policy becomes effective, you can expect to claim against your health insurance.

When you buy health insurance, it is important that you know when it will cover you. This way, you can schedule medical appointments, treatments and procedures so that you are sure that the insurance will be the one that will foot the bill and not you.

You can look into your policy to see what waiting periods are listed and what specific diseases or treatments have those waiting periods.

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