Health Insurance Terms and Definitions

One of the biggest problems for most people is simply understanding the health insurance benefits that they have. For the most part, health insurance policies try to be user-friendly in their wording, but many people are just not familiar with medical and insurance terminology health insurance.

Most health insurance policies also provide something similar to a cheat sheet which gives the basic outline of policy coverage and covers the most common medical services. However, you need to be sure that you understand the different things that are excluded under your plan. Many health insurance plans provide limited benefits for services such as mental health, chiropractic services, and occupational health. Even physical therapy and home health care are often limited to a certain number of visits per year.

Co-payment or Co-pay

A co-payment is a pre-determined amount that you must pay a medical provider for a particular type of service. For example, you may be required to pay a $15 co-payment when you visit your doctor. In this instance, you must pay $15 to the doctor’s office at the time of the visit. Normally, you are not required to pay any additional fees — your health insurance company will pay the rest. However, in some cases, if your health insurance policy specifies it, you may be responsible for a co-payment and then a percentage of the remaining balance.

Deductible

A deductible is the amount of your medical expenses you must pay for before the health insurance company will begin to pay benefits. Most health insurance plans have a calendar-year deductible which means that in January of every new year the deductible requirement starts over again. So, if your calendar year deductible is $1500, as long as your medical expenses for the current year do not exceed $1500 the insurance company pays nothing for that year. Once January of the new year starts, you have to begin again to pay for $1500 of your own medical expenses.

Coinsurance

Coinsurance (or out-of-pocket expense) is the amount or percentage of each medical charge that you are required to pay. For example, you may have a $100 medical charge. Your health insurance company will pay 80% of the charge and you are responsible for the additional 20%. The 20% is your coinsurance amount.

Coinsurance accrues throughout the year. If you have a large number of medical charges in one year, you may meet the coinsurance maximum requirement for your policy. At that point, any covered charges will be paid at 100% for the remainder of the calendar year.

Stop loss or out-of-pocket expense limit

Sometimes you will hear the out-of-pocket expense limit referred to as your stop loss or coinsurance amount. Basically, this is the amount you will need to pay out of your own pocket per calendar year before the health insurance company pays everything at 100%.

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