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Making Sense of Health Insurance

The term health insurance refers to a wide variety of insurance policies. These range from policies that cover the costs of doctors and hospitals to those that meet a specific need, such as paying for long-term care. Even disability insuranceówhich replaces lost income if you canít work because of illness or accidentóis considered health insurance, even though itís not specifically for medical expenses.

But when people talk about insurance, they usually mean the kind of insurance offered by employers to employees, the kind that covers medical bills, surgery, and hospital expenses. You may have heard this kind of insurance referred to as comprehensive or major medical policies, alluding to the broad protection they offer. But the fact is, neither of these terms is particularly helpful to the consumer.

Today, when people talk about broad health care coverage, instead of using the term "major medical," they are more likely to refer to fee-for-service or managed care. These terms apply to different kinds of coverage or health plans. Moreover, youíll also hear about specific kinds of managed care plans: maintenance organizations or HMOs, preferred provider organizations or PPOs, and point-of-service or POS plans.

While fee-for-service and managed care plans differ in important ways, in some ways they are similar. Both cover an array of medical, surgical, and hospital expenses. Most offer some coverage for prescription drugs, and some include coverage for dentists and other providers. But there are many important differences that will make one or the other form of coverage the right one for you.

If you have ever been sick or injured, you know how important it is to have coverage. But if youíre confused about what kind is best for you, youíre not alone.

What types of coverage are available? If your employer offers you a choice of plans, what should you know before making a decision? In addition to coverage for medical expenses, do you need some other kind of insurance? What if you are too ill to work? Or, if you are over 65,will Medicare pay for all your medical expenses?

These are questions that todayís consumers are asking; and these questions arenít necessarily easy to answer.

The booklet, Health Insurance Basics, should help. It discusses the basic forms of coverage and includes a checklist to help you compare plans. It answers some commonly asked questions and also includes thumbnail descriptions of other forms of insurance, including hospital-surgical policies, specified disease policies, catastrophic coverage, hospital indemnity insurance, and disability, long-term care, and Medicare supplement insurance.

While we know that our guide canít answer all your questions, we think it will help you make the right decisions for yourself, your family, and even your business.

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