FAQs about Health Insurance

Updated:Sep 12,2013

Understanding the ins and outs of health insurance can be complicated, but taking the time can save your health — and your wallet! Here are some frequently asked questions to help you make the best decisions for you and your family.

  • How do I know which plan is best for me and my family?
    Start by learning how health insurance works. Make a list of questions before you choose a health plan. Gather information about your household income and set your budget for health insurance. Learn the difference between different types of plans (like PPO, HMO and POS) so you can decide which one is best for you and your family. Learn more at Healthcare.gov.

    Find out if you can stay with your current doctors, hospitals and pharmacy. Learn common insurance terms, especially the ones that describe your share of the costs, such as deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums and copayments. There are a number of resources from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Consumer Reports, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the U.S. Department of Health and  Human Services to help you understand how insurance works, insurance options and factors to consider when purchasing coverage.
     
  • Where can I file a complaint about my health insurance? 
    If you’re not satisfied with your health plan’s services or if your claim has been denied, call the member services phone number on your health plan member card. You may be able to resolve your concern over the phone, or you or your representative can file a complaint with the health plan.

    If you decide to file a complaint, you may need to complete a form and submit it in writing so the health plan can investigate the facts, decide what to do and share any action being taken to address your complaint. You should receive a letter that explains how your complaint was resolved. It will include your appeal rights and how to submit an appeal if you want the health plan to reconsider its decision.

    If you’re not satisfied with how your insurance company addresses your complaint, every state has an insurance department to help with questions or complaints. To find out more, contact your state insurance department. Ask if your state has a consumer assistance program that can help you file an appeal. The National Patient Advocate Foundation may be able to help you file an appeal or resolve billing or other complaints with your insurance company. You can also call them at (800) 532-5274,
     
  • What rights do I have if my insurance company denies coverage for a service?
    You have the right to ask your plan to reconsider its decision. If your plan still denies payment after considering your appeal, the law permits you to have an independent review organization decide whether or not to uphold or overturn the plan’s decision. This final check is often referred to as an external review.

    If you’re not satisfied with the way your insurance company addresses your appeal or if you need help, every state has an insurance department you can contact about your coverage. To find out more, contact your state insurance department. Your state may also have a consumer assistance program that can help you file an appeal. Ask your state insurance department if your state has such a program. Finally, contact the National Patient Advocate Foundation  on their website or (800) 532-5274, may also be able to help you file an appeal with your insurance company.
     
  • What are out-of-network services and do I have any coverage for them? 
    Out-of-network services are services provided by a doctor, hospital or other provider that does not have a contractual relationship with your health plan. Not all plans cover out-of-network services, but when they do, your share of the cost is usually significantly higher. For example, an HMO plan may not provide any coverage for out-of-network services, except in an emergency. When possible, try to learn whether the doctor or hospital you are visiting is in-network before receiving services.
     
  • What is “balance billing”?
    Some states allow health care providers to charge you the difference between what the insurance company has paid and what the provider charges if you seek services from a provider that isn’t part of your plan’s network or doesn’t have a contractual agreement with your health plan. This is called “balance billing” and YOU are responsible for paying this amount.

    It’s very important to ask your provider, whether they participate in your health plan, especially if you’re visiting a doctor, specialist or lab for the first time. Participating and preferred providers have agreed to accept your health plan’s payment, called the allowed amount, as payment in full and they have agreed not to bill you for the balance of the charge. This is an important benefit of using providers in your health plan’s network.
     
  • Is my health plan required to cover emergency care even if it’s out-of-network? 
    Yes. Federal law requires any health plan providing benefits for emergency services to cover them without regard to whether a particular health care provider or hospital is an in-network provider. In addition, the plan can’t impose any copayment or coinsurance on emergency services provided out-of-network that’s greater than what would be imposed if the services were provided in network. However, in some states that permit balance billing, an out-of-network provider can charge you the difference between what the insurance company has paid and what the provider has charged. In this case, you may face higher out-of-pocket costs for emergency care.
     
  • I get my health insurance through my employer. Under the health reform law, will my employer still provide my insurance coverage?
    If you have health insurance through your employer, you will probably continue to get your health insurance through you job. Although there has never been a legal requirement that employers offer coverage to their workers, there are numerous reasons many employers provide health insurance today (tax advantages, employee demand, maintaining a healthy workforce). Even after the health reform law is fully implemented, these reasons will remain in place. In addition, large employers who don’t provide coverage may be penalized if their employees end up receiving financial assistance to purchase coverage through the new health insurance marketplaces.
     
  • I have Medicare. Will my Medicare coverage change under the health reform law? 
    You will continue to be covered through the Medicare program. The new law does not cut Medicare benefits or increase seniors’ out-of-pocket Medicare costs or deny seniors end-of-life care. Medicare beneficiaries are already receiving some additional benefits as a result of the law. They include an annual wellness exam at no cost, no cost-sharing for preventive services and increased discounts on prescription drugs.
Learn more:  Also in this section:

Consumer Health Care

Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter
 
 
 
Choose at least one option (required):
 
By clicking submit below you agree to the Terms and Conditions
Find recognized, accredited and certified hospitals near you

Hearts for Healthcare

H4H Stethoscope
The Affordable Care Act is helping to make health care coverage from accessible and affordable to millions of Americans. Learn what the law means for heart disease and stroke patients and their families.