With so many options available for health insurance, how do you navigate the options? With our team of advisors and our needs-based analysis process, we can offer solutions that are custom fit to your family. Our philosophy is not to sell just one size fits all solutions, but to provide options for you to make a choice tailored specifically to your needs.
Understanding Health Insurance
Health insurance is a product that covers your medical expenses if you get sick or injured. Health insurance also covers preventive care, such as doctors visits and tests before you get sick. Health insurance is offered on the exchange through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Insurance carriers can also offer short term plans privately off the exchange. Health insurance doesn’t always cover 100% of your costs. In fact, it’s designed to share costs with you up until a certain point, called the out-of-pocket limit. After you hit the out-of-pocket limit, health insurance will pay 100% of your health care costs. There are a few ways that health insurance companies might share costs with you, and they make up major features of your health insurance plan that you need to be aware of: your deductible, co-payment, co-insurance, and your out-of-pocket limit.
What's New for Healthcare 2021
Enrollment Period - The Open Enrollment period for plan year 2021 is November 1, 2020 through December 15, 2020.
Annual Cost Sharing Limits - For 2021, the maximum annual out-of-pocket limitation on cost sharing has increased to $8,550 for an individual and $17,100 for families enrolled in individual and group market plans. Beginning with plan year 2021, when consistent with state law, the issuer or plan may, but is not required to, count direct support offered by drug manufacturers (prescription discounts) for specific prescription drugs towards the consumer's annual cost-sharing limit.
Eligibility Determination Appeal - In addition to mail, consumers can now file an appeal of a Marketplace eligibility determination online or by fax. Appeal must be submitted within 90 days of the contested Eligibility Determination Notice, unless due to exceptional circumstances.
Premium - It’s easy to think of your premium as your monthly bill. Every month, you pay a premium to a health insurance company in order to access a health insurance plan. As we’ll get into in a second, while your monthly premium may be how much you pay for health insurance, it’s not equivalent to how much you pay on health care services. In fact, choosing a plan with lower premiums will likely mean that you’ll pay more out-of-pocket if you need to see a doctor.
Deductible - A deductible is how much you need to pay for health care services out-of-pocket before your health insurance kicks in. In most plans, once you pay your deductible, you'll still need to pay co-pays and coinsurance until you hit the out-of-pocket max, after which the plan pays for 100% of services. Plans with lower premiums tend to have higher deductibles.
Note that the deductible and out-of-pocket maximum describe two different concepts: the deductible is how much you’ll pay for a covered procedure before your insurance starts to pay, and the out-of-pocket maximum is the total amount you’ll pay for care including the deductible.
Co-payment - Often referred to as "copay," is a fixed amount that you pay for a specific service or prescription medication. Co-payments are one of the ways that health insurers will split costs with you after you hit your deductible. In addition to that, you may have co-payments on specific services before you hit your deductible. For example, many health insurance plans will have co-payments for doctor's visits and prescription drugs before you hit your deductible. You will pay co-payments until you hit your maximum out-of-pocket amount.
Coinsurance - Coinsurance is another way that health insurers will split costs with you. Unlike a co-payment, coinsurance isn't a fixed cost. It's a percentage of the cost that you pay for covered services. For example, if you have a coinsurance of 20%, you'll pay 20% of the cost of covered services until you reach your out-of-pocket maximum.
Maximum out-of-pocket amount - The maximum out-of-pocket amount, also called the out-of-pocket limit, is the most you’d ever have to pay for covered health care services in a year. Payments made towards your deductible, as well as any co-payments and coinsurance payments, go toward your out-of-pocket limit. Monthly premiums do not count.
Note that the maximum out-of-pocket is a consumer protection enacted under the ACA; previously plans didn’t have to cap what a person would be required to spend on health care services. This often meant that insured people who had to undergo very expensive treatments (e.g., for cancer or lifesaving surgery) could face unlimited medical bills.
Types of Plans
HMO: Health Maintenance Organization
HMO plansare the most restrictive type of plan when it comes to accessing your network of providers. If you have an HMO plan, you’ll be asked to choose a primary care physician (PCP) that is in-network. All of your care will be coordinated by your PCP, and you’ll need a referral from your PCP to see a specialist. HMOs do not cover any out-of-network health care costs. HMO plans typically have cheaper premiums than other types of private health insurance plans.
PPO plans are the least restrictive type of plan when it comes to accessing your network of providers and getting care from outside the plan’s network. Typically, you have the option between choosing between an in-network doctor, who can you see at a lower cost, or an out-of-network doctor at a higher cost. You do not need a referral to see a specialist, though you may still choose a primary care physician (some states, like California, may require that you have a primary care physician). PPO plans typically have more expensive premiums than other types of private health insurance plans.
EPO plans are a mix between HMO plans and PPO plans. EPO plans give you the option of seeing a specialist without a referral. However, EPO plans do not cover out-of-network physicians. EPO plans typically have more expensive premiums than HMOs, but less expensive premiums than PPOs.
POS plans are another hybrid of HMO and PPO plans. You’ll have a primary care provider on an HMO-style network that can coordinate your care. You’ll also have access to a PPO-style network with out-of-network options (albeit at a higher cost). The HMO network will be more affordable, and you will need to get a referral to see HMO specialists. POS plans typically have more expensive premiums than pure HMOs, but less expensive premiums than PPOs.