There are many ways in which health insurance can be obtained. Many employers provide this service to employees. An arrangement is made such that regular deductions are made from the salaries or wages of these employees. Individual persons may also get medical cover by approaching the providers directly. Choosing the right policy is a daunting task that requires that one knows a few health insurance basics beforehand.
A policy is bought through a premium. A premium is a regular payment made to the insurer and this guarantees cover against costs incurred during treatment and other medical procedures. The amount of policy is the primary determinant of the services to be provided by the healthcare provider on behalf of the insurer. The premium is meant to cover only the services specified in the policy.
Health insurance plans are usually organised as networks of hospitals, clinics, doctors, consultants and other specialists. The service providers enter into a contract with the insurer. Under the agreement, healthcare providers have to provide a given set of services to the insured clients on behalf of the insurance company at a certain fee which is often subsidized. Individuals seeking services from out of network doctors have to pay for them using other means.
There are various insurance plans in current use. One of them is that which is provided by health maintenance organisations or HMOs. HMOs only work with doctors who have signed a contract with the provider of the cover. Out of network services may only be used in emergency situations. The insured persons are usually individuals who work or live in the service areas of the HMO. Although they provide integrated care, their main focus is health promotion and prevention of diseases.
Preferred provider organisations (PPOs) give the insured clients a little more freedom as regards the choice of service provider. The cost of seeking services out of the network, is however, a little higher. Policy holders usually pay deductibles annually for a certain period of time before they start enjoying the benefits. Settlement of bills is done by both the insurer and the insured in a ratio that has been agreed. Point of service (POS) is a hybrid between the PPO and the HMO.
Many providers worry about the range of services that they will be able to get. Persons seeking medical cover are advised to check the list of services enlisted before they make a decision to take up a particular policy. It is important to ensure that there are as many specialists on this list as possible. It is also important to visit the hospitals to confirm that the services exist.
It is important to distinguish between comprehensive health covers and similar products available in the market. Products such as accident-only policy, dreaded disease policy and supplemental policy are very limited in what they provide. Dread disease policy, for instance, is a cover limited to specific chronic diseases such as cancer.
The important thing to know about a medical cover is that the amount of premium should be proportional to the extent of the cover. Individuals seeking policies should not merely focus on the cost of services. Many cheap policies end up being even more expensive in the long run because many of the expenses will have to be paid out-of -pocket. One needs to have some knowledge of health insurance basics to avoid disappointments that may arise when seeking treatment.
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