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.

Save on Health Insurance

Health Savings Account

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are tax-free savings accounts designed to help consumers pay for healthcare services while limiting premium expenses for unwanted benefits. The plans have lower premiums and higher deductibles than other insurance plans because they offer fewer benefits and require you to use the money in your HSA to pay for certain qualified medical services. However, if you don’t need to visit the doctor frequently and don’t anticipate requiring regular medical attention, HSA plans are a cost-effective method of insuring against the worst without paying for coverage you won’t use. In order to open an HSA, you’ll need to have an HSA-compatible health insurance plan. You may only use the funds in your HSA to pay for qualified medical expenses. Usually, your HSA plan will have a deductible that, once met, requires your insurance company to pay for any additional qualified medical expenses for the rest of the year.

Dental Insurance

Health insurance typically does not cover dental services, but in order to keep your teeth and gums healthy, you need regular visits to the dentist. Without dental insurance, regular dentist appointments can prohibitively expensive. Make sure your mouth is covered by shopping for both health and dental insurance. 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 for special services. In order for the insurance company to cover your dental expenses you will need to send them a claim for reimbursement. You’ll end up paying more out-of-pocket with an indemnity plan, but you will have more flexibility in choosing which dentists you visit. By contrast, managed-care plans limit you to the doctors and services within a dental services network, and you will need to visit doctors within this network in order to get coverage for their services. Within the dental care network, your insurance company has arranged pre-negotiated rates that you will receive when you visit dentists in the network. Your dentist will submit your insurance claim for you, keeping your out-of-pocket expenses lower than with an indemnity plan.

Compare the Plans

Comparing insurance plans is an important step in buying health insurance. It will save you money in the long run if you take the time to compare premium prices, out-of-pocket costs, plan benefits, the network of physicians available with different plans, and the quality of insurance providers. If you have a favorite physician, make sure your health insurance covers visits to him or her. If you don’t need to see the doctor very often, don’t pay a high premium for low office visit copayments. Health insurance plans are designed to address specific healthcare needs, and you’ll save money and get the most effective coverage by comparing plans to find the health insurance plan that best fits your budget and lifestyle.

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Health Insurance Help to Lower Your Premium

Illness for non-work related injuries can be financially devastating. Insurance keeps you protected against disastrous health care expenses and lost wages. There are enormous health insurance plans available day-to-day, the insurance cost and its benefits vary from one plans to another. Before enrolling for a policy, an individual should consult with the insurance agencies, read the policy to get the complete information about the benefits and costs and also the way the plan works.

Today, there are many more kinds of health insurance to choose from than were available just a few years ago. Traditional differences between and among plans do not longer any more. Also, there is been an increased emphasis on the role of consumers in managing their own health care and health care finances. There is a focus on providing information on the cost of care and health care quality-at the level of the physician, physician group, and hospital-to help consumers and employers choose among the many options available to them. The things have changed a lot, when most people in the United States had health insurance has indemnity insurance (also called as fee-for-service or traditional insurance). This type of insurance coverage assumed that the medical provider i.e. doctor or physicians will be paid a fee for each service provided to the patient.

When we talk about health insurance, we usually mean the kind of insurance that pays medical bills, hospital bills, and typically, prescription drug costs. Nowadays, the insurance also covers Medicare and Mediaid that provides health insurance coverage for certain people, senior citizens, people with disabilities and also an individual and families with low income. Today, the online information helps an individual to compare two best insurance policies and choose best among it. The insurance help an individual for financial planning and accordingly choose the best suitable for the family. The policy helps to avoid the burden of expensive medical bills and ensure the penny paid in health plan is paid for your care. It protects you and your family financially in the event of an unexpected serious illness or injury that could be very expensive.

In spite of available health insurance help online, unfortunately many Americans are still uninsured or underinsured. Some may be eligible for private or government but may have difficulty in finding the maze of complex rules and insurance jargons. Many more may not even have chosen the plans due to non-affordability coverage or may not be eligible for any. To help you choose right plan, we give you an overview of programs and strategies for seeking free or reduced-cost health care and managing medical debts.

Why does an individual require health insurance?

As the science and medical care advances, the ways of treatment are also increasing simultaneously. The main purpose of health insurance is to help in paying for care. It protects you and your family members in an unexpected serious illness and injury that may be high in cost. Additionally, you are more likely to get regular and routine checkups, if you have an insurance policy. Every individual requires insurance policy because you cannot predict your illness, injury and your high paying medical bills. One must seriously consider the need for health insurance for own and family. We also know that there is interlinking between having health insurance and getting protective health care. The research states that people having health insurance are more likely to have a regular doctor and get care when it is needed.

How should one get health insurance?

Most of the people get health insurance through their employers or company which they belong to. This is formerly known as group insurance. Some individuals don’t have access to group insurance. In this case, one may choose to purchase their own individual health insurance directly from public or privately owned insurance company. Most of the Americans in North America get health insurance through government programs that operate at National, State & Local Levels. Insurance- whether provided by your employer or purchased by you – can be both expensive and complex. To understand better option, you must take health insurance help from the experts and advisors.

Group Insurance:
Group Insurance is basically offered by the employers or else by an organization of which you are a member of union, professional association wherein you may get group coverage. The employee has to choose between several plans been offered by an employer’s including both indemnity insurance and managed care. Some employer may only offer one single plan. Some group plans may also include dental care with the health and medical benefits. Hence, it is a very important decision to be taken by and employee before choosing any insurance benefits offered by employer or an organization. It is also essential to compare plans to find the one that offers the benefits as per your need. Once you choose an insurance plan, you usually cannot switch over to another plan until next open season, usually set once a year.

In group health insurance, employer usually pays portion or all of the premiums. This means your costs for health insurance premiums will be lower than they would be if you paid the entire premium alone.

If you are a member of group insurance offered by an organization, you are benefited from being a member of a large group. You will have to pay lesser premium than an individual would be paying. However, the organization often does not pay a share of premium, meaning you are responsible to pay complete premium by yourself.

Individual Insurance:
In an individual Insurance, you get the coverage directly from the Insurance Company. You don’t have any access to the group insurance offered by an employer or an organization. When you buy you own insurance, you have to pay entire premium rather than sharing with an employer according to Group Insurance. In individual insurance, you do not share any cost of premium with your employer. You should analyze and choose an individual insurance plan that fits your needs at a price that you are willing to pay; you should also consult a tax advisor to find out whether you are eligible for any tax deduction as per the insurance plan.

Insurance variably differs from one company to another within an insurance industry, from one plan to another and one product to another. Hence, choosing right company, right product, right plan are the important criteria before choosing any plans.

Which type of health insurance is right for you?

Whether you choose group insurance or an individual insurance plan, you must carefully compare coverage and costs. You should compare the following important aspects like coverage and benefits, premiums, exclusions and limitations, access to hospitals, doctors, and other providers etc…

One must consider what kinds of services are covered by the plan? How are benefits being availed of health insurance plan; do you have to submit a claim? When do you need pre-approval to ensure coverage for care? What steps do you need to get the care of you and your family members need? You must ensure how does your insurance plan works. Don’t wait until you need emergency care to ask questions.

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How to Get Cheap Health Insurance?

Cheap health insurance may look like a bargain, but what happens if you have a major medical problem? You don’t want to be caught off-guard if an unexpected major medical problem arises. Cheap health insurance means one thing to one person and something else to another. While the idea of getting cheap health insurance is very appealing, no one wants to deal with the repercussions of bad or inadequate health insurance. Cheap health insurance has become the issue of the moment in South Carolina and across the country. More small businesses are increasingly unable to provide cheap health insurance plans to their employees because of the rising cost and the lack of federal and state legislation that would allow small businesses to purchase cheap medical insurance in pools.

Cheap health insurance is your access to the best options in the market. This is because you no longer have to spend so much time searching for the product that will suit your health care needs. Cheap health insurance rates work so much better when you know what you are supposed to be looking for. Get some tips on what you should look for when dealing with a health insurance plan. Cheap health insurance quotes can help you to find the best and the most inexpensive coverage that is available. You will be covered, and relieved to know that if anything happened to you, you will not have that major financial stress of paying full price for your injuries or illnesses.

Medicare supplemental insurance offers senior coverage for health care costs that are not covered by a traditional Medicare plan. By having Medicare supplemental insurance, seniors can rely on consistent, constant and comprehensive coverage when they need it. Medicare supplemental insurance is designed for people on Medicare, who wish to have more comprehensive coverage. These supplemental plans may include Managed Care HMO plans or Medigap PPO plans that provide you with greater access to participating physicians. Medicare and Medicaid are both excellent programs for those individuals who qualify, but they are no substitute for a system which allows us all to access basic private medical insurance cover at a cost which we can afford.

Medical Insurance also known as health insurance is a protection to individuals and their families against unforeseen expenses. In the process, there are two parties namely the insurer and the insured. Medicaid is for people who come under the low income’s bracket. Every person is eligible for it and having a job does not affect one’s eligibility. Medical terms can be confusing, and before speaking with an insurance agent, you should make sure you understated his or her language. Make sure you read our overview of health insurance companies to get a better idea of each provider’s identity.

Individual companies are free to evaluate the risks to insure you in whatever manner they see fit. Each health insurance company employs people (actuaries) that try to calculate the statistical risks involved in insuring you, and not surprisingly, has a slightly different view of the statistics. Individual health insurance works differently. It generally can’t be terminated just because you use it, but you can be turned down in the first place if you do not pass health underwriting; you can be rated up if you have a history of illness or obesity; and your premiums can be and often are increased if you suddenly have a major illness. Individual health insurance covers different types of injuries as well. An active lifestyle increases the risk of accidental injuries and repairing broken bones can become very expensive.

Individual health insurance is State specific. Each state has slightly different laws and regulations governing the implementation of private individual health insurance.

Hospitalization, medicines, doctor fees can be very high and if the patient cannot get a suitable insurance cover, it is very difficult. Health insurance can be a tough battle for cancer patients. Hospitals have an extraordinary ability to save life and without health insurance you could be medically saved but financially ruined. Hospital cash plans are a form of medical insurance that takes care of everyday medical costs. Many will pay for dental or optical treatment up to a set limit every year; physiotherapy; specialist consultations etc.

Comparison of your options: To be able to find an affordable health insurance you must have an idea of all. What is available in the market? After you have shopped enough get hold of a broker who can help you in comparing the policies. Comparing health insurance is a case of finding the right health insurance provider to cover your particular circumstances as well as comparing the types of policy provided by each health insurer.

Comparing Medical Insurance isn’t just a case of finding a handful of brand names and trusting they have everything covered in their policies. The cover varies wildly, as will your medical insurance quotes. Compare several plans from top rated medical insurance companies and apply online.

COBRA, short of Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, came into being in 1985, and it is also a low cost health insurance option for short-term coverage up to 18 months. It’s great for transition periods such as school age children, widowed spouses, divorced couples, and other situations where you may have been covered by employee programs previously. COBRA has an 18 month limit, or 36 months if you’re permanently disabled. Most people are under the impression that COBRA is expensive, or that it’s better to stay with a plan they know.

Again, depending on where you live, requirements may be stringent. However, it wouldn’t hurt to see if you or your family qualifies. Ask around to find out about the different agents and their policies. Many agents will work very hard to get you an affordable health insurance plan for your family at a cost you can live with. Ask if the agent will be available for phone calls and if he or she will make phone calls on your behalf if you have questions in the future. Ask your agent to be sure.

Ask for a quote from several sources, and see what kind of a deal, they can get for you. Make sure they are also licensed in your state, because it does no good getting insurance if they can’t operate in your state. Ask about policy rates, terms, services, co-pays, and claim procedures. If the representative has a difficult time answering your questions, or you just don’t think the company is legit, consider visiting your state’s Department of Insurance website to read through reviews and financial information of the company.

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Information shared here does not constitute financial, legal, or other professional advice, and no advisor-client or confidential relationship is or should be formed by use of the site. This article is intended to provide general information only and does not give advice, which relates to your specific individual circumstances. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Any link-listing or ad-listing on this site does not constitute any type of endorsement.

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Why You May NOT Want to Use Your Health Insurance for Counseling

Why not use your health insurance for counseling? Isn’t that what it is for?

Perhaps.

But using health insurance for mental health services is a little different than other medical issues. Sometimes mental health issues are not covered by your health insurance. Once you use your health insurance for mental health, you will have a mental health diagnosis on file – a mental health disorder/mental health illness must be on the insurance claim in order for insurance to pay for treatment. This will be in your permanent medical record.

Of course you want to consider using your health insurance for counseling, but there are some good reasons for you to consider why you may not want to use your insurance for counseling services.

Why doesn’t my counselor accept my health insurance?

Many counselors choose not to accept health insurance for very good reasons. They want to focus 100% of their time in treating you. If they accept health insurance, there is a lot of extra work involved in accepting insurance, in addition to agreeing to work for a discounted fee. The counselor may spend hours on the phone getting benefit information, authorizations, or following up on claims payments. The counselor has to wait a month for payment from the insurance company. The counselor has to file progress reports with the insurance company. The counselor is required to submit treatment reports and other details about your medical history with the insurance company.

It’s not that counselors don’t like insurance companies, or don’t want you to use your insurance (we have health insurance too!), but many counselors prefer to focus 100% of their time and energy in helping clients, rather than doing paperwork for insurance companies.

But this isn’t the only reason counselors may not be in network with your health insurance company.

The other reasons are more compelling, and you need to consider them BEFORE you decide to use your health insurance.

Many counselors prefer not to work in network with health insurance companies so that they can better protect your confidentiality. Any information (claims, reports, or treatment plans) filed with health insurance leaves the protection of their office and their locked files and your personal, private, emotional information is outside of your counselor’s office. In order for any insurance company to reimburse or pay for counseling (both in network and out of network), you must be considered “ill”. You must be diagnosed with a mental health illness or disorder. If you are not ill enough to warrant a diagnosis, then insurance will not pay for counseling services. If you do qualify for a mental health diagnosis, your illness will be listed in your permanent medical record. Many counselors don’t like this “medical model” of declaring someone ill, so they choose not to accept insurance because they want to focus on their client’s strengths, and not label them as mentally ill.

Do you want to be considered mentally ill? If you have a mental health diagnosis already, because you have been to counseling or psychiatric appointments in the past, find out what your diagnosis on file is. If you already have a mental health diagnosis, this may not be a concern to you, but if not, you may not want this in your medical record.

Counselors also do not like releasing information to others to protect your confidentiality. Once a claim is submitted to the insurance company, who knows how many people take a look at it and rubber stamp it while it travels through the system? If insurance pays for any counseling sessions (in network or out of network), then the insurance company has the right to audit your complete file. They can request copies of counseling notes, assessments, and other personal emotional information to determine if you really are “sick enough” to warrant their payment. They can deny services to you if they think you aren’t sick enough or if they think your counseling is not “medically necessary”.

Additionally, there are many counseling issues that are not even covered by insurance at all. Stress management and anger management are usually not covered. Marriage counseling is usually not covered. Certain medical conditions/mental health conditions may be excluded (such as attention deficit disorder or adjustment disorder). Even if your illness or disorder is covered by your insurance plan, they may limit the number of visits they will cover (sometimes only 20 per year), and they will set a maximum amount they will pay per calendar year or in your lifetime.

Additionally, counselors prefer not to have someone in the insurance company telling them how to treat their clients. Insurance companies can decide what type of counseling is covered, what diagnoses are allowed, and how many times the client needs to come before they are cured. Many counselors prefer to work directly with clients to serve their needs, without interference from an insurance company.

Using your health insurance for counseling services can also affect your security clearance, life insurance rate, employment, or future health insurance coverage.

For the above reasons, I recommend that you be informed about using health insurance for counseling. You may choose to file anyway, but be an informed consumer.

Be an informed consumer.
Know your mental health diagnosis.
Talk to your counselor about the diagnosis.
Ask your counselor about your treatment reports.
Decide if you have, or want to have, a psychiatric illness.

If you have clinical, severe depression, anxiety, or other issues, then you probably already have a diagnosis.

But if you are stressed, having relationship problems, or trying to figure out your purpose in life, your symptoms may be minor, and you may not want to have a mental health diagnosis in your records.

Once an insurance claim is submitted to your health insurance company, your diagnosis becomes part of your permanent medical record, and can affect future life insurance, preexisting conditions, or the cost of private health insurance.

Jama Thurman is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Manassas, VA. She helps teens and adults who are stressed and anxious find peace and purpose.

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