Before you shop for the right health plan, take a few minutes to educate yourself on the different health insurance policies available.
The most common health plans
What types of health insurance products are available?
You can shop for and compare the following health insurance products:
- Individual and family health insurance
- Small business health insurance
- Short-term health insurance
- Student health insurance
- Dental insurance
- Dental discount cards (an alternative to dental coverage)
- HSA (Health Savings Accounts) plans
If you're shopping for health insurance, start a free quote here.
What do I need to know about PPO plans?
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans are available for individuals and families, and are generally the most popular type. If you have a PPO health plan, you don't need to select a primary care provider like you would with a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan. Your health insurance company maintains a network of doctors and hospitals that you can choose from whenever you need medical care.
A PPO gives you the freedom to choose your provider, but it's your responsibility to find out whether a certain doctor or hospital is within the network, and it's nearly always in your best interest to choose an in-network provider. If you do go to an out-of-network provider, your medical claim may be denied or covered at a lower level.
When you compare quotes online, you can check to see if your local doctor or hospital is part of a health plan's preferred network.
What should I know about HMO plans?
An HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) plan requires you to choose a primary care physician from your insurance company's network of providers. The primary care physician provides most of your care and refers you to specialists whenever necessary. Because they provide coverage for checkups and immunizations, HMO health plans are good for preventive care.
Note that, as with PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) plans, medical care from a doctor or hospital outside of the HMO network is typically not covered.
Should I consider HSA-eligible plans?
If you're particularly young and healthy, you might want to consider a Health Savings Account (HSA) plan. An HSA is a bank account that lets you save pre-tax money for medical expenses. Apart from the special bank account, HSA plans function like PPO plans, but with higher deductibles and lower payments — meaning you pay more for your care, but less for your health insurance policy.
Is vision care included in most health insurance plans?
Many health plans cover treatment and medical expenses resulting from an eye injury or disease, but they don't cover eye exams, glasses, or contacts. If you'd like to purchase supplemental vision care, you can start a free health quote through an Esurance partner.
Other types of health plans
What is an indemnity plan?
An indemnity health insurance policy is another type of plan. Indemnity plans give you more freedom to control who provides your health care than a PPO or HMO plan because you can see any doctor and visit any hospital without worrying about the plan's network. In some cases, your insurance company will require you to pay costs up front before applying for reimbursement.
Because of the added freedom to choose your own provider, indemnity policies can be more expensive than other types of policies.
What is the advantage of buying group health insurance?
If you own a small business, you may want to consider purchasing group health insurance. The primary advantage of group health insurance is that all of your employees will be covered, regardless of individual health. This is because "evidence of insurability" is not a requirement in group health insurance. Insurance companies have found that the larger the group of people insured, the more likely it is that healthy plan members will balance out the individuals in poor health.
There are other perks to group health insurance plans, too. Group plans are more affordable per person, they tend to be flexible, and they often provide better benefits than individual health plans.
What is catastrophic health insurance?
Catastrophic health insurance, also known as a High Deductible Health Plan, covers emergency medical care, and often doesn't include coverage for elective doctor visits and procedures. These plans have low monthly payments as a trade-off for higher-than-average deductibles.
There are 2 types of catastrophic health insurance policies: supplemental and comprehensive. The supplemental version is added to your traditional health care plan, and it can help with costs that your primary plan may not cover. Comprehensive catastrophic plans cover emergencies (like trips to the ER and hospital stays) once you've met the annual deductible.
In general, catastrophic health insurance is recommended for young, healthy people who may not be able to afford a more comprehensive health plan.
When should I consider short-term health insurance?
If you're between jobs and you know your future employer will sponsor your coverage once you start the new job, short-term health insurance could be a good option. It's intended to provide emergency protection, so it doesn't cover existing conditions, prescriptions, and most office visits.
What is a student health plan?
Student health insurance plans cover full-time students who need affordable coverage while they're in school. If you're a student, you can choose from a range of deductibles and, because it's not an HMO or a PPO, you can visit any doctor or hospital.
In cases where students are required to have a health care plan to attend school, student health insurance can be ideal since it's often cheaper than most individual health insurance plans.
What are my health care options if I'm unemployed?
If you're married or have a domestic partner, find out if you can join your spouse or partner's health plan and how that would impact the monthly premium. If you're struggling to find a reasonable plan, there are also public options available in each state.
Most employers are required to offer laid-off employees the opportunity to continue to receive group health-care coverage for a certain amount of time through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, better known as COBRA. For more information about COBRA coverage and advice on whether it's right for you,
visit eHealthInsurance's COBRA page.
If and when you do have COBRA coverage, you can continue to shop for an individual or family plan. When you find the right policy, your provider will help you switch. You can cancel your existing plan once you've received confirmation of your enrollment from the new plan.
Do I need a new health plan if I move to a different state?
Check the specifics of your policy or call the number on your health card to find out. If you have an HMO plan, you may need to shop for a new policy if the doctors and hospitals in your new hometown are considered out of network. If you have a PPO plan, you may be able to keep your current policy as long as it can be transferred between states.
To get a better understanding of the health care options available in your new state, visit healthinsurance.org.