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Health insurance or medical insurance is a type of insurance that covers the whole or a part of the risk of a person incurring medical expenses. As with other types of insurance is risk among many individuals.
Health insurance is a contract that requires an insurer to pay some or all of a person’s healthcare costs in exchange for a premium.1 More specifically, health insurance typically pays for medical, surgical, prescription drug, and sometimes dental expenses incurred by the insured. Health insurance can reimburse the insured for expenses incurred from illness or injury, or pay the care provider directly. It is often included in employer benefit packages as a means of enticing quality employees, with premiums partially covered by the employer but often also deducted from employee paychecks. The cost of health insurance premiums is deductible to the payer, and the benefits received are tax-free, with certain exceptions for S corporation employees.
Health insurance can be tricky to navigate. Managed care insurance plans require policyholders to receive care from a network of designated healthcare providers for the highest level of coverage. If patients seek care outside the network, they must pay a higher percentage of the cost. In some cases, the insurance company may even refuse payment outright for services obtained out of network.
Many managed care plans—for example, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and point-of-service plans (POS)—require patients to choose a primary care physician who oversees the patient’s care, makes recommendations about treatment, and provides referrals for medical specialists. Preferred-provider organizations (PPOs), by contrast, don’t require referrals but do have lower rates for using in-network practitioners and services.2
Insurance companies may also deny coverage for certain services that were obtained without preauthorization. In addition, insurers may refuse payment for name-brand drugs if a generic version or comparable medication is available at a lower cost. All these rules should be stated in the material provided by the insurance company and should be carefully reviewed. It’s worth checking with employers or the company directly before incurring a major expense.