How to Choose the Right Health Insurance: A Step-by – Step Guide
Although you may have limited time to find the best plan for your family’s health, it can be costly to rush and pick the wrong coverage. This is a complete guide that will help you find affordable healthcare insurance.
Step 1: Pick your health insurance marketplace
If your employer offers you health insurance
Most people who have insurance for health are covered by their employers. If your employer provides health insurance, you don’t have to use the marketplaces or government insurance exchanges unless you wish to find a different plan. However, plans available in the marketplace may be more expensive than those offered by employers. This is because employers typically pay a percentage of workers’ insurance premiums.
If your employer does not offer health insurance,
To find the right plan for you, search either the state’s online marketplace (if it’s available) or the federal marketplace. Enter your ZIP code at HealthCare.gov. Your information will be sent to the state exchange if one exists. If not, you will use the federal market.
You can also buy insurance through a private marketplace or directly from an insurer. You won’t be eligible to premium tax credit, which is an income-based discount on your monthly premiums, if you choose these options.
Step 2: Compare the different types of health insurance plans
While searching for the best health insurance plan, there will be a lot of information. The most popular types of insurance policies for health are PPOs, HMOs, and EPOs. Your out-of pocket costs and the doctors you can visit will depend on which plan you choose.
Seek out a summary of all the benefits
Online marketplaces often provide a link for the summary of benefits. This explains all details about the plan’s cost and coverage. The provider directory should be available, which lists all participating doctors and clinics in the plan. For a summary listing of benefits, contact your employer benefits administrator.
Assess the medical needs of your family
Take a look at what type and how much you have had to receive in the past. It’s impossible for anyone to predict every medical expense. However, it can be helpful to know trends so you can make informed decisions.
- Think about whether or not you are interested in a referral system.
- Referrals required for plans
A referral is required for HMOs and POS plans. This means that you will have to see a primary doctor before scheduling any procedure or visiting a specialist. This requirement is why many people prefer to have other plans. However, HMOs can be very affordable if you limit your choices to the providers they’ve contracted to.
HMOs and POS plans offer the benefit of one primary physician managing your entire medical care. This can lead to greater familiarity and continuity of your medical records. You should always get a referral from your physician before you decide to go out of network with POS plans. This will help reduce your out-of–pocket expenses. (Unless you are in an emergency, an HMO cannot allow you to go out of network.
Plans that do not require referrals
A PPO or an EPO may be more suitable if you are looking for specialists directly. Although EPOs do not usually require referrals, some do. EPOs may be a good option to keep costs down, provided you can find providers within your network. This is often the case in larger cities. If you live in rural or remote areas with limited access and need for medical care, a PPO could be an option.
An HDHP combined with a savings account for health?
The HDHP (high-deductible health plan) can be any of the above types of insurance — HMO or PPO, EPO, or POS. However, they must comply with certain rules in order for them to be “HSA eligible.” They typically have lower premiums and higher out-of-pocket expenses, particularly when you start. You can only open one of these plans to be eligible for a HSA (Health Savings Account), which is an account that allows you to use tax-advantaged funds to pay your health care costs. You should first learn all about HSAs and HDHPs if this is something you are interested in.
Step 3: Compare the health plan networks
Your “network” for health insurance refers to the providers and facilities you have contracted with to deliver your care.
Why is the network so important?
In-network doctors are cheaper because insurance companies negotiate lower rates. If you visit a doctor outside of your network, you won’t be able to agree on rates and will usually end up paying a greater portion.
Do you have a preferred doctor?
If you wish to continue seeing your current doctors, ensure they’re listed in the provider directories of the plan you are considering. Ask your doctor if they have a particular plan.
Is a large network important?
You should look for a plan that has a wide network to give you more options. You will have a better chance of finding a local doctor if you live outside the city.
If you can, get rid of any plans that do not have in-network doctors. Other plans may have fewer options.
Step 4 – Compare out-of pocket costs
Other than your monthly premium, out-of pocket costs are also important. Summary of benefits in a plan should clearly indicate how much you’ll need to pay out of your own pocket for services. For comparison purposes, the federal online marketplace provides snapshots of these costs as well as many state marketplaces.
Know your terms for health insurance
It’s helpful to understand some key terms for health insurance.
- Copay: A flat fee (such $20) you pay for each health care service or procedure.
- Coinsurance This is the amount you pay for a medical bill.
- Deductible The amount you pay before your insurance pays for any covered medical care.
- Maximum out of pocket: This refers to the maximum you’ll pay for covered healthcare in a single year. After you reach this amount, your insurance pays the rest.
- Other costs beyond the plan’s cost: These are costs that exceed the plan’s price, including copays and coinsurance.
- Premium The monthly cost for your insurance policy.
You get more coverage with higher premiums
Your out-of-pocket expenses such as copays, coinsurance, and copays will be lower if your premium is higher. If: A plan that pays more than 50% of your medical costs but has higher monthly premiums may be better.
- It is common to see a primary or specialist physician often.
- You will often need emergency care.
- You regularly take expensive, brand-name medication.
- Are you expecting a child?
- There is a planned operation coming up.
- You have been diagnosed with diabetes or cancer.
Step 5: Compare your benefits
You’ll probably narrow down your options to just a few choices by this step. These are some considerations:
See the full range of services
Refer to the summary benefits to determine if any plans offer a greater range of services. Some plans might offer more coverage for things like mental health, fertility treatment, and physical therapy. Other plans might offer better emergency coverage.
This is a crucial step that you should not skip. You may miss out on a plan that is better suited for your family.
All lingering queries should be addressed
Calling the customer service number of your plan might be the best option for answering your questions in some cases. Make sure to write down all your questions in advance. Keep a pen and an electronic device with you to record the answers. Some examples of questions that you could ask are:
- I take a certain medication. What medication is covered by this plan?
- What drugs for my condition are covered by this plan?
- What are the coverages for maternity services?
- What happens if you get sick while traveling?
- How do I get started with signing up? What documents do I require?