What is individual and family health insurance?
Individual and family health coverage is insurance that is made available to individuals and families, rather than to employer groups or organizations. Given the option, most people would prefer to have their employer provide group health insurance coverage. But, if this is not an option for you, it is still important for you to be protected. You may be pleasantly surprised with the variety and affordability of the available options.
Individual and family health programs are usually described as either “indemnity” or “managed-care” plans. Put broadly, the major differences concern choice of healthcare providers, out-of-pocket costs and how bills are paid. Typically, indemnity plans offer a broader selection of healthcare providers than managed care plans. Indemnity plans pay their share of the costs for covered services only after they receive a bill (which means that you may have to pay up front and then obtain reimbursement from your health insurance company).
There are several different types of managed-care health insurance plans. These include HMO, PPO, and POS plans. Managed-care plans typically make use of healthcare provider networks. Healthcare providers within a network agree to perform services for managed-care plan patients at pre-negotiated rates and will usually submit the claim to the insurance company for you. In general, you’ll have less paperwork and lower out-of-pocket costs with a managed care health insurance plan and a broader choice of healthcare providers with an indemnity plan.
What’s the best health insurance plan for me?
Choosing between different health insurance plans isn’t always easy. There is no one “best” plan for everyone. The best match for you and your family may be different than the best match for someone else. In order to help you answer this question, here are a few things to consider:
Are you looking for basic coverage or more comprehensive coverage?
Some insurance plans offer basic coverage (i.e., primarily inpatient hospitalization and outpatient surgery coverage) to cover you in case of a major accident or illness. These insurance plans typically have a lower monthly premium than plans with more comprehensive coverage, and may be appropriate for people who intend to use their insurance primarily in the event of a serious accident or illness.
Other insurance plans, in addition to offering coverage in case of a major accident or illness, offer more comprehensive coverage which MAY include benefits such as: preventative care, physician services, prescription drug benefits and routine office visits. These insurance plans typically have a higher monthly premium than plans that only offer basic coverage, and may be appropriate for people who intend to use their insurance on a regular basis.
Would you rather pay for your services before you use them or when you use them?
Typically, the higher the monthly premium that you pay, the less you will pay per doctor’s visit in co-payments and deductibles. If you choose a health insurance plan with a low monthly premium, you’re likely to have a higher co-payment or deductible. If you don’t anticipate making frequent use of your health insurance coverage, a higher-deductible plan with a lower monthly premium may suit you best.
How important to you is easy access to specialists?
Health insurance plans that require you to coordinate your care through a primary care physician typically require that you obtain a referral before seeing a specialist. Thus, if you prefer easier access to specialists, you may wish to consider a different type of plan.
Do you have a specific doctor or hospital that you would like to visit for healthcare?
Some insurance plans utilize provider networks. Pay special attention to the network of doctors or facilities that each health insurance plan utilizes. You’ll want to make sure that your favorite doctor or hospital is included on the list for the health insurance plan you choose. Also note that networks utilized by health insurance plans can change, so there is no guarantee that your doctor will always be contracted with your chosen health insurance plan.
What is the most you could pay out in case of a serious illness or injury?
Health insurance plans typically place limits on how much a member is required to pay out per year for his or her healthcare. This limit is often referred to as an out-of-pocket maximum. Once you’ve contributed this maximum amount toward your healthcare, the health insurance company typically covers all other costs for the remainder of the benefit year. If you’re concerned about what may happen to you in case of a serious illness or injury, you may wish to pay special attention to the out-of-pocket maximums for the health insurance plans you’re considering.