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Insurance: Who Needs it?

What type of insurance makes sense for you?

Evalue sus seguros

— Jacques Laurent/Wave/Corbis

En español | During these trying economic times, shopping for insurance isn't anyone's idea of fun. Hispanics, however, seem especially averse. According to census data and industry insiders, Latinos are the most uninsured and underinsured group in the nation. For instance, nearly one third of the more than 40 million people in the United States without health insurance are Latino, but Latinos are only 15 percent of the population. For many, it's due to tight budgets, language challenges, and cultural biases.

See also: Does homeowners insurance cover that?

"If you come from a country with a national health program, you may not realize that in the United States, without proper health insurance you could find yourself with enormous medical bills," says Leonor McCall-Rodriguez, president of One Voice Insurance Services, in California.

Andre Urena, CEO of the Latin American Agents Association, says that similar cultural biases lead many Latinos to skimp on life and homeowners insurance too. "Those from cultures of strong family ties and countries with little material wealth simply don't see insurance as a priority."

But having the right insurance in the right amounts should be a financial priority, experts say. Below, find out if you need it and, if so, how much is enough.

Health Insurance

Do you need it? Ten out of 10 doctors agree: Yes. With healthcare costs soaring ever higher and many employers not paying their traditional share, underinsured households are risking financial ruin. Half of all personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills.

How much is enough? "You don't just need a health insurance plan; it has to be a quality plan," says McCall-Rodriguez, who reports that policies of questionable value are flooding the market, advertised everywhere. "You want a major carrier," she says. "And you want to ensure that all serious procedures are covered."

Ask enough questions. Research deductibles and copayments. (Don't know what those terms mean? See the web link "Choosing a Medigap Policy," below.) Find out which drugs are covered. Inquire about emergency care coverage. Ask your current doctors if they participate in the plan.

Tips: "You also need to know how to use the plan," adds McCall-Rodriguez. Preventive care, such as colonoscopies and vaccinations, are covered 100 percent by many plans. Checkups can be covered even before deductibles are met.

If you're 65 or about to turn 65, you may want to buy Medigap insurance to supplement Medicare. You can also call Medicare and speak to a counselor at 800-633-4227.

Next: Homeowners, auto and renters insurance.>>

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