Health Insurance Buyer’s Guide

Buying Shopping for health insurance can leave many people confused. Knowing which insurance company to choose or which insurance plan is the best may seem daunting impossible. But once you know the basics of health insurance, choosing the right health insurance plan is simple easy.

This article will provide some of the most basic and helpful tools and explanations for health insurance shoppers. First, it is important to learn about helps to understand the different types of health insurance plans and their benefits and drawbacks. Plans differ in the amount you pay out-of-pocket, which doctors you can visit, and how the your insurance bills are paid. Besides just helping you choose the most efficient and cost-effective plan, we’ll teach you about another way you can save on health insurance: a Health Savings Account. Additionally, it is important to learn about dental insurance as well. Many health insurance plans do not include dental insurance under their benefits, so we’ll go over how to shop for and obtain separate dental coverage. Then it is important to learn about ways you can save on health insurance. There are several ways you can save including Health Savings Accounts and Discount Cards. LastlyAnd finally, don’t forget to compare plans before you make your decisionwe’ll explain why it’s so important to put your new knowledge to good use by comparing health insurance plans.

Types of Health Insurance Plans

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) Plans

Generally, HMOs have low or even no deductible and the co-payments will be relatively comparatively low as well. You pay a monthly premium that gives you access to coverage for doctor appointments, hospital stays, emergency care, tests, x-rays and therapy. You will have to choose a primary care physician (PCP) within your insurance provider’s network of physicians, and in order to see a specialist you need to receive a referral from your PCP. Under an HMO plan, only visits to doctors and hospitals with the insurance company’s network of providers are covered; you’ll have to pay for visits if you go to an out-of-network doctors or hospitals your insurance will not cover the costs.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

Plans Under a PPO plan, you will use the insurance company’s network of doctors and hospitals for any services or supplies you need. These healthcare providers have been contracted by the insurance company to provide services at a discounted rate. Generally, you will be able to choose doctors and specialists within this network without having to choose a primary care physician or get a referral. Before the insurance company will start paying for your medical bills you will usually need to pay an annual deductible. Also, you may have a co-payment for some services or be required to cover a percentage of the total medical bill.

Point of Service (POS) Plans

A POS plan is a combination of the features offered by HMO and PPO plans. You are required to choose a primary care physician, whose services are not usually subject to a deductible, but your PCP can refer you to out-of-network specialists whose services will be partially covered by your insurance company. Additionally, POS plans usually offer coverage for preventive healthcare, which includes regular checkups. Your PCP will be able to give you referrals for any specialists. If these specialists are out-of-network you will need to pay out-of-pocket and then apply for reimbursement from the insurance company. With a POS plan you will benefit from some of the savings of an HMO and will have greater flexibility in choosing healthcare providers, similar to PPO.

Dental Insurance

It is important to get a dental insurance plan along with your health insurance plan. In order to keep your teeth and gums health you need regular visits to the dentist. Without dental insurance, the cost of dentist appointments will be much higher making it difficult to keep up with the payments. Dental insurance is similar to health insurance in that each month you pay a premium, which entitles you to certain dental benefits. Benefits include checkups, cleanings, x-rays, and other dental services. There are plans that may cover dental implants, oral surgery and orthodontia, but they will be more expensive. Like health insurance, plans are categorized into indemnity and managed-care plans. If you choose an indemnity plan you will have a broader choice of dental care providers to choose from. You won’t have to choose one primary dentist and generally, you won’t need to acquire referrals. In order for the insurance company to cover your dental expenses you will need to send them a claim before they reimburse you for covered services. As a result, you will have to pay more out-of-pocket with an indemnity plan, but you will have more flexibility in choosing which dentists you visit. On the other hand, managed-care plans will provide you with a dental provider network and you will need to visit dentists within this network in order to get coverage for these services. With a dental care network, the insurance company has arranged pre-negotiated rates that you will receive when you visit these dentists. With a managed-care plan, the dentists will submit the claim for you, lowering your out-of-pocket expenses.

Health Savings Accounts – An American Innovation in Health Insurance

NTRODUCTON – The term “health insurance” is commonly used in the United States to describe any program that helps pay for medical expenses, whether through privately purchased insurance, social insurance or a non-insurance social welfare program funded by the government. Synonyms for this usage include “health coverage,” “health care coverage” and “health benefits” and “medical insurance.” In a more technical sense, the term is used to describe any form of insurance that provides protection against injury or illness.

In America, the health insurance industry has changed rapidly during the last few decades. In the 1970’s most people who had health insurance had indemnity insurance. Indemnity insurance is often called fee-forservice. It is the traditional health insurance in which the medical provider (usually a doctor or hospital) is paid a fee for each service provided to the patient covered under the policy. An important category associated with the indemnity plans is that of consumer driven health care (CDHC). Consumer-directed health plans allow individuals and families to have greater control over their health care, including when and how they access care, what types of care they receive and how much they spend on health care services.

These plans are however associated with higher deductibles that the insured have to pay from their pocket before they can claim insurance money. Consumer driven health care plans include Health Reimbursement Plans (HRAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), high deductible health plans (HDHps), Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Of these, the Health Savings Accounts are the most recent and they have witnessed rapid growth during the last decade.

WHAT IS A HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNT?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States. The funds contributed to the account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. These may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability.

Another feature is that the funds contributed to Health Savings Account roll over and accumulate year over year if not spent. These can be withdrawn by the employees at the time of retirement without any tax liabilities. Withdrawals for qualified expenses and interest earned are also not subject to federal income taxes. According to the U.S. Treasury Office, ‘A Health Savings Account is an alternative to traditional health insurance; it is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care.

HSA’s enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.’ Thus the Health Savings Account is an effort to increase the efficiency of the American health care system and to encourage people to be more responsible and prudent towards their health care needs. It falls in the category of consumer driven health care plans.

Origin of Health Savings Account

The Health Savings Account was established under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act passed by the U.S. Congress in June 2003, by the Senate in July 2003 and signed by President Bush on December 8, 2003.

Eligibility –

The following individuals are eligible to open a Health Savings Account –

– Those who are covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).
– Those not covered by other health insurance plans.
– Those not enrolled in Medicare4.

Also there are no income limits on who may contribute to an HAS and there is no requirement of having earned income to contribute to an HAS. However HAS’s can’t be set up by those who are dependent on someone else’s tax return. Also HSA’s cannot be set up independently by children.

What is a High Deductible Health plan (HDHP)?

Enrollment in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is a necessary qualification for anyone wishing to open a Health Savings Account. In fact the HDHPs got a boost by the Medicare Modernization Act which introduced the HSAs. A High Deductible Health Plan is a health insurance plan which has a certain deductible threshold. This limit must be crossed before the insured person can claim insurance money. It does not cover first dollar medical expenses. So an individual has to himself pay the initial expenses that are called out-of-pocket costs.

In a number of HDHPs costs of immunization and preventive health care are excluded from the deductible which means that the individual is reimbursed for them. HDHPs can be taken both by individuals (self employed as well as employed) and employers. In 2008, HDHPs are being offered by insurance companies in America with deductibles ranging from a minimum of $1,100 for Self and $2,200 for Self and Family coverage. The maximum amount out-of-pocket limits for HDHPs is $5,600 for self and $11,200 for Self and Family enrollment. These deductible limits are called IRS limits as they are set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In HDHPs the relation between the deductibles and the premium paid by the insured is inversely propotional i.e. higher the deductible, lower the premium and vice versa. The major purported advantages of HDHPs are that they will a) lower health care costs by causing patients to be more cost-conscious, and b) make insurance premiums more affordable for the uninsured. The logic is that when the patients are fully covered (i.e. have health plans with low deductibles), they tend to be less health conscious and also less cost conscious when going for treatmen