Health insurance can be confusing, with all the complex terminology and nitty-gritty policy details. To clarify common questions around plans, costs, providers, benefits and more, this comprehensive guide compiles frequently asked health insurance FAQs along with insider answers. By understanding key basics and demystifying complex policies, you can make informed choices and get the most from your coverage.
Health Insurance Basics
What are the different major types of health insurance plans?
- HMO (Health Maintenance Organizations) – Requires you to select a primary care physician and get referrals to see specialists. Networks are limited to save costs.
- PPO (Preferred Provider Organizations) – Provides more flexibility to see specialists without referrals, but highest coverage is in-network. Out-of-network is possible but costs more.
- EPO (Exclusive Provider Organizations) – Does not cover out-of-network providers except in emergencies. Using in-network doctors and facilities is essential to minimize costs.
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What is a health insurance premium, deductible, copay, and coinsurance?
- Premium – The monthly or annual amount you pay for coverage.
- Deductible – Your out-of-pocket costs before insurance kicks in. Met once a year.
- Copay – The flat fee paid at appointments, like $20 per doctor visit.
- Coinsurance – The percentage you pay after meeting deductible, often 20%.
How can I compare different health insurance plans?
Compare monthly premium costs, deductibles and max out-of-pocket costs. Also look at copays, coinsurance percentages, and coverage amounts for types of care needed. Weigh plan flexibility and doctors in-network.
What is a Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA)?
- HSAs – Tax-advantaged accounts used with high deductible health plans to save pre-tax money for medical expenses. Balances roll over.
- FSAs – Accounts allowing pre-tax dollars to be set aside for healthcare costs not covered by insurance. Must be used annually.
Enrolling in Health Insurance
When can I sign up for health insurance?
You can enroll during your employer or marketplace’s annual open enrollment period, or within 60 days of a qualifying life event like losing coverage, moving, getting married, or having a child.
If I miss open enrollment, when can I get insured?
Outside of open enrollment, you must have a qualifying life event for a special enrollment period. If uninsured, short term insurance can provide stopgap coverage.
How do I get covered if unemployed, self-employed or a small business?
Shop the federal health insurance marketplace or state exchange for coverage if you don’t have employer insurance options. Compare plans based on costs and included benefits.
What information is needed to enroll in a health plan?
Having household income, Social Security numbers, proof of legal residency, employer and coverage information will make the application process easier whether enrolling online, by phone or with an agent.
Health Insurance Costs
Why is health insurance so expensive?
Rising healthcare and prescription drug costs coupled with an aging population and more chronic conditions drive prices up. Administrative costs and profits also contribute to premium increases each year.
How can I get more affordable health insurance?
Choose higher deductible plans to lower premiums, get employer coverage if available, utilize tax credits and subsidies if eligible, or consider cheaper alternatives like short term insurance between comprehensive policies.
Are there ways to reduce my monthly premiums?
Higher deductibles and coinsurance lower premiums. Eliminating benefits like dental or vision saves money but reduces coverage. Sticking to in-network providers yields savings as well.
What medical expenses count towards my health insurance deductible?
Any care subject to the deductible including doctor visits, hospital services, medications and tests adds to your accumulating costs until reaching the annual threshold amount. Then insurance coverage kicks in.
Using Your Health Insurance
How can I find doctors and hospitals in my plan’s network?
Insurer websites have provider search tools to find in-network doctors and facilities by location and specialty. Narrow your search before making appointments to minimize costs.
Do I need referrals to see specialists if I have an HMO plan?
Most HMOs require you to choose a primary care physician who will make referrals before you can get coverage to see specialists, except in emergencies. Check your specific HMO requirements.
Why do I need preauthorization for some treatments and prescriptions?
Insurers want to ensure certain expensive drugs and procedures are truly needed before approving coverage. Your doctor handles preauthorization paperwork. Without it, services may not be covered.
How can I find out what prescription drugs are covered by my plan?
Use your insurer’s online formulary tool or call to see coverage tiers for specific medications. Make sure yours are included or acceptable alternatives exist before enrollment.
Can I still use out-of-network providers if needed?
PPO plans cover out-of-network services but at higher personal costs. HMOs and EPOs offer little or no coverage outside their networks except for emergencies. Know restrictions to avoid surprise expenses.
Health Insurance Claims and Payments
Why am I getting billed for treatments that should be covered?
First confirm the provider is in-network. Then verify proper preauthorizations were acquired for drugs or procedures. If issues persist, call your insurer to resolve claim problems and denied coverages.
How can I manage high out-of-pocket medical expenses?
Use tax-advantaged HSAs or FSAs to save for costs. Request payment plans for large bills and negotiate costs whenever possible. Evaluate alternative treatments and generic medication options to save money.
What information is required on medical claims?
Claims require patient and insured details (names, DOB, policy number), provider information, itemized services and charges, diagnosis codes (ICD 10 codes), procedure and treatment codes (CPT codes) and dates of services.
Can health insurance coverage be backdated?
Insurance can’t be backdated to cover past care and expenses before your policy began. Benefits only apply for care received within your coverage enrollment dates.
How soon after treatment will my provider process the claim?
Claim processing times vary, but providers typically submit claims within days or weeks after appointments. You may not receive bills for 30-60 days though as processing progresses.
Changing and Updating Health Insurance
Can I change health plans during open enrollment?
Yes, open enrollment lets you switch health plans entirely provided you are enrolled within the same marketplace or employer insurance policy. Make changes by the deadline.
What if my income or dependents change during the plan year?
Report any major life changes that could impact eligibility or subsidies so your coverage adjusts appropriately. This may involve changing plans or savings.
Can I join my spouse’s employer health plan during open enrollment?
Yes, open enrollment provides the opportunity to join, drop or change health plans due to marriage, divorce, or other family status changes if employer policies allow it.
Under what circumstances can I change health plans mid-year?
Outside of open enrollment, you must have an official qualifying life event like relocation, job loss, marriage, or new child to become eligible for special enrollment periods allowing plan changes.
How do I update my listed primary care doctor or listed dependents?
Contact your health insurer directly to fill out forms and officially update your account with new provider or family details. Keep this information current for proper coverage.
Health Insurance Problems and Complaints
What should I do if my insurance company denies a claim?
First appeal the decision with evidence from your doctor explaining the necessity of the treatment or prescription. If that fails, file complaints with state insurance commissioners or the federal CMS.
Who can help with billing disputes between me, insurers and providers?
Start by contacting the insurer or provider billing departments explaining discrepancies. Unresolved disputes may require state insurance regulators or even legal interventions to settle.
What recourse do I have if dropped unfairly by my insurer?
If you are dropped while seriously ill, have payment issues, or other problems, state regulators may be able to intervene and have you reinstated on a plan if improper cancellation occurred.
Where can I file official complaints about my insurer or coverage?
Every state has an insurance commissioner’s office that investigates complaints against licensed insurers operating in the state. You can also notify your state attorney general.
How long can I expect to wait for complaint investigations against my insurer?
Complaint cases typically involve 30-90 day investigations before regulators issue determinations or recommendations. Monitor your case status and follow up if needed.
Understanding the ins and outs of health insurance doesn’t have to be daunting or frustrating. Arm yourself with the vital basics around terminology, costs, using coverage, and resolving issues. Dig deeper into the plan details applicable to your specific needs and situation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or enlist help to ensure you get optimal benefits out of your health plan. Maintain open communication with providers and insurers, report changes that affect coverage promptly, and utilize available comparison tools and resources to make the most informed choices. Remember knowledge is power when it comes to navigating complex health insurance policies and emerging with your ideal coverage.