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How do we get into a group health insurance plan?

July 11, 2012: 5:30 AM ET

My husband and I own a business with just one seasonal employee. We have had to buy high deductible ($7000) insurance for over $700 per month. It has an HSA attached. We have a lawn care business and ATV repair and we also farm. I am a medical transcriptionist at home and work in my church's office, but we have no benefits. Can we get into a group insurance plan to lower our premium costs and get a bit better coverage? — S.D., Perham, Minnesota

A group insurance plan may provide some relief, but even at group rates you may find that high deductible policies have the best premium rates. To find out, you need to check with whatever trade associations or business membership groups you may be affiliated with to see if they offer insurance and if you qualify.  Your local chamber of commerce is a good place to start. So are the farming organizations in your area such as the Minnesota Farm Bureau. Even if these groups don't sell health insurance they may know of other sources or they may offer discounts on prescription and dental plans that can help ease your out-of-pocket burden.

Be sure to read trade group policies carefully.  Some plans offer extremely limited coverage or  come with severe restrictions such as a low cap on hospital stays. In some extreme cases trade group policies have been investigated for fraud. Check with your state's department of insurance to make sure the policy you're considering is legitimate before signing up.

If no group option works, you can look for a better price among private insurers. Websites such as let you plug in your information and compare rates.  Alternatively, a trusted insurance broker who deals only with health insurance and is recommended by family or friends can also help you compare various policies.

Because you own your own business, check with an agent to see if your state offers sole proprietor health insurance plans. These can be cheaper than an individual plan and allow everyone in your company to get coverage regardless of  health status.

— Walecia Konrad

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