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Health Information

A health insurance policy is a contract between an insurance company and an individual or his sponsor (e.g. an employer). The type and amount of health care costs that will be covered by the health insurance company are specified in advance, in the member contract or "Evidence of Coverage" booklet.  Some of the terms of the contract are defined below:  

  
Premium 

The amount the policy-holder or his sponsor (e.g. an employer) pays to the health plan each month to purchase health coverage.  

 
Deductible
The amount that the insured must pay out-of-pocket before the health insurer pays its share. For example, a policy-holder might have to pay a $ 1,500 deductible per year, before any of their health care is covered by the health insurer. It may take several doctor's visits or prescription refills before the insured person reaches the deductible and the insurance company starts to pay for care.  
 
Copayment
The amount that the insured person must pay out of pocket before the health insurer pays for a particular visit or service. For example, an insured person might pay a $45 copayment for a doctor's visit, or to obtain a prescription. A copayment must be paid each time a particular service is obtained.  
 
Coinsurance
Instead of, or in addition to, paying a fixed amount up front (a copayment), the co-insurance is a percentage of the total cost that insured person may also pay. For example, the member might have to pay 20% of the cost of a surgery over and above a co-payment, while the insurance company pays the other 80%. If there is an upper limit on coinsurance, the policy-holder could end up owing very little, or a great deal, depending on the actual costs of the services they obtain.  
 
Exclusions
Not all services are covered. The insured person is generally expected to pay the full cost of non-covered services out of their own pocket.  
 
Coverage limits
Some health insurance policies only pay for health care up to a certain dollar amount. The insured person may be expected to pay any charges in excess of the health plan's maximum payment for a specific service. In addition, some insurance policies have annual or lifetime coverage maximums. In these cases, the health plan will stop payment when they reach the benefit maximum, and the policy-holder must pay all remaining costs.  
 
Out-of-pocket maximums
The insured person's payment obligation ends when they reach the out-of-pocket maximum and the health company pays all further covered costs. Out-of-pocket maximums can be limited to a specific benefit category (such as prescription drugs) or can apply to all coverage provided during a specific benefit year.  
 
In-Network Provider
(U.S. term) A health care provider on a list of providers preselected by the insurer. The insurer will offer discounted coinsurance or copayments, or additional benefits, to a plan member to see an in-network provider. Generally, providers in network are providers who have a contract with the insurer to accept rates further discounted from the "usual and customary" charges the insurer pays to out-of-network providers.  
 
Prior Authorization
A certification or authorization that an insurer provides prior to medical service occurring. Obtaining an authorization means that the insurer is obligated to pay for the service, assume it matches what was authorized. Many smaller, routine services do not require authorization.  
 
Explanation of Benefits
A document sent by an insurer to a patient explaining what was covered for a medical service, and how they arrived at the payment amount and patient responsibility amount.
 
Prescription drug plans are a form of insurance offered through some employer benefit plans in the U.S., where the patient pays a copayment and the prescription drug insurance part or all of the balance for drugs covered in the formulary of the plan.
 

 

Some, if not most, health care providers in the United States will agree to bill the insurance company if patients are willing to sign an agreement that they will be responsible for the amount that the insurance company doesn't pay. The insurance company pays out of network providers according to "reasonable and customary" charges, which may be less than the provider's usual fee. The provider may also have a separate contract with the insurer to accept what amounts to a discounted rate or capitation to the provider's standard charges. It generally costs the patient less to use an in-network provider.  

 


 

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