Healthcare can be highly expensive in the US. A typical three-day hospital stay could cost tens of thousands of dollars (or even more), while a single doctor’s office visit could cost several hundred dollars depending on the sort of care received. The bulk of us would not be able to afford such high expenditures in the event that we got sick because we have no idea when we might get sick or harmed or how much treatment we might need. Health insurance can help reduce these costs to levels that are more manageable.
The consumer often pays the premium upfront to the health insurance company, which enables you to share the “risk” with many other participants who are also paying a comparable amount. The insurance company can use the premium money received to cover the costs of the (relatively) few subscribers who fall ill or are injured because the majority of people are normally healthy. In the US, there are many different types of health insurance plans as well as several laws and medical care protocols.
When selecting the health insurance that would be most advantageous for you, you should take into account the three key questions that are given below.
Where can I find healthcare?
One way health insurance plans cut costs is by influencing provider access. Examples of providers include doctors, hospitals, labs, pharmacies, and other companies. Many insurance firms have contracts with a certain network of service providers who consent to deliver goods and services to program members at a reduced price.
If a provider is not part of a plan’s network, the insurance company might not pay for the service(s) delivered or it might pay less than it would for care received from providers who are. This suggests that the enrollee may be liable for a significantly higher cost-sharing obligation if they seek care outside of the network. This concept must be understood, especially if you are not originally from the US region.
If you have a plan through a parent, for example, and that plan’s network is in your hometown, you might not be able to obtain the therapy you need there, or you could have to pay much more to do so.
What is protected by the policy?
One of the things that the Affordable Care Act’s health care reform in the U.S. has done is the increased standardization of insurance plan elements. Before this standardization, the benefits offered varied widely between plans. For instance, some plans included prescription drugs while others did not. The following “essential health benefits” are now required of plans in the United States: emergency assistance, hospitalization, in-lab examinations, neonatal care, pregnancy, treatment for substance abuse and mental illness, outpatient care, services for children, such as dental and eye care, prescription medications, preventive services, such as some immunizations, and chronic disease management, therapeutic services.
How much will it cost?
Insurance costs are actually pretty challenging to comprehend. In our summary, we indicated that enrolling in a plan requires payment. Since it is transparent to you, you are aware of the upfront cost and know how much you will pay.
Unfortunately, there are extra costs for the services you obtain under the majority of programs. There are frequently expenses associated with seeking therapy. These expenses, which reflect the part of the cost of care that you are responsible for covering out of pocket, are documented as deductibles, coinsurance, and/or copays (see definitions below). Generally speaking, the more you pay in premiums up front, the less you will pay when you receive care. You will pay less in premiums the more you spend on care.
The insurer must choose between paying (a larger portion) now or in the future. The cost of the care you receive will be your responsibility. We have decided that it is preferable to pay a larger share of the upfront payment in order to minimize the costs incurred at the time of service. This is the decision we made because we don’t want there to be any barriers to care, such a high copay at the time of service that might prevent insurers from receiving care. We want insurers to have access to healthcare when necessary.
Principal Insurance Concepts and Terms
Individually incurred expenses
The terms “out-of-pocket cost” and/or “cost sharing” are occasionally used to describe the portion of your medical expenses that you are accountable for paying when you actually obtain treatment. The monthly premium you pay for your treatment does not cover these costs.
The amount you must pay each plan year before the insurance company starts to pay its share of the costs is known as the annual deductible. You would be liable for covering the first $2,000 of medical costs you incur each year if the deductible was $2,000 for example. The insurance provider would subsequently start making their contribution.
The copayment (“copay”)
Each time you receive care that has a copay requirement, you are required to pay a predetermined upfront sum. For instance, the insurance provider might cover all but $30 of the cost of a doctor’s visit. For plans with higher premiums, copays are frequently lower, and vice versa. Different types of cost sharing are routinely used in plans without copays.
The percentage of the cost of your medical care that coinsurance will cover. 20% ($200) of the MRI’s $1,000 price could be your responsibility. The remaining 80% ($800) will be covered by your insurance company. Plans with greater premiums typically have lower coinsurance rates.
Maximum yearly out-of-pocket
The greatest amount of cost-sharing you will have to pay each year is the annual out-of-pocket limit. It consists of your combined deductible, copays, and coinsurance (but excludes premiums). When you reach this threshold, the insurance provider will cover all of your covered expenses for the balance of the plan year. The out-of-pocket maximum is rarely reached by most enrollees, although it can occur if expensive treatment is required for a major accident or illness. Lower out-of-pocket maximums are typically found in plans with higher premiums.
What ‘Covered Benefit’ actually means
For instance, there can be a fee in a plan where “urgent care” is “covered.” The patient must pay the copay out of pocket. The patient must pay the copay, which in this case would be $100, at the time of service. The insurance company will then ‘cover’ the remaining costs for the urgent care service.
An insurance provider could in some cases refuse to contribute anything towards a “covered benefit.” For instance, if a patient’s yearly deductible is $1,000 and the cost of the $400 insured health care is greater than the $1,000, the patient will be responsible for the additional $400 (typically at the time of service). Only $600 would need to be paid by the patient for additional services before the insurance company begins to pay its portion, making this service “covered” because the cost contributes towards the yearly deductible.