Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance Company (BCBS) is one of the leading health insurance providers in the world. Over 70 years old and made up of 39 companies within itself, BCBS provides health insurance to over 100 million people. In the United States it is the largest health care company and provides insurance in all 50 states.

BCBS is represented in the U.S. as well as 170 countries worldwide making it the ideal insurance for travelers. The company offers coverage for large companies, small businesses, and individuals. More physicians and hospitals contract with BCBS then any other insurance provider in the world. With one out of every three insured Americans getting their coverage from BCBS, it is important to know what type of coverage is offered so you can decide if Blue Cross Blue Shield is right for you.

BCBS offers seven types of coverage in the U.S. They are Flexible Spending Account, Health Maintenance Organization, Health Savings Account, Health Reimbursement Arrangement, Indemnity and Traditional Coverage, Point-of-Service, and Preferred Provider Organization. Knowing a little bit about each type of coverage can help you choice which plan is right for you.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)

Flexible spending accounts make it possible for qualifying members to use money before taxes are taken out in order to pay for specific medical situations. The money comes directly out of the member’s paycheck before taxes. The amount deposited is decided upon by the member. Money in a FSA can also be used for certain expenses involved with dependent care.

What BCBS does is to manage or administrate your FSA through their Blue Healthcare Bank. They manage the money deposited, help with withdraws, answer any questions that arise, advise members on eligibility and suggested amounts. This is one way to save some tax money while getting the coverage you need.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

A health maintenance organization is run and administrated more like a business then a health care system. HMO’s offer comprehensive medical coverage to members. In return, members pay a monthly fee or premium to the HMO. There are coverage rules associated with HMO’s, so if you go this route, be sure to understand what the rules are and how they work.

For example, HMO’s will generally require you to see doctors in a specific geographical region or within a specific network. There are co-pays associated with HMO coverage that must be paid in order for medial services to be provided.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

Health Savings Accounts were approved and signed into law by President Bush in 2003. They allow individuals to save money in an account that is tax free and has advantages. The money can only be withdrawn and used for medically qualifying expenses. A health savings account is generally used along with another type of coverage such as high deductible coverage. Money can then be withdrawn from a health savings account to pay the deductible and other qualified medical expenses.

Contributions to health savings accounts can be made by individuals, by an employer, or by another person on behalf of the contributing individual. All money contributed is tax-free. Amounts that can be contributed annually change each year as they are reviewed by the US Treasury Department.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA)

A health reimbursement arrangement is set up by an employer. A predetermined amount of money is reimbursed to the employee from the employer for eligible medical situations. These situations can be for the individual employee or the employee’s family. Some eligible situations are prescriptions, co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket medical expenses.

This type of plan is usually set up by an employer who can not offer full health insurance coverage, yet still wants to provide some time of medical benefit for employees. BCBS manages this program much like it manages a FSA providing customer service, billing, withdrawal and deposit services, and answers any questions the employer or employee may have.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Indemnity and Traditional Coverage

Indemnity and traditional coverage is what most Americans think of when they hear the term “health insurance”. It is comprehensive coverage offered by an insurance company in exchange for a monthly premium. This type of coverage gives most of the control to the insured. It allows the insured to decide on providers, hospitals, clinics, specialists, and pharmacies without forcing them to work within a network.

Over 13 million people receive this type of coverage through BCBS. Although members are given freedom of choice, there are some incentives offered for choosing a BCBS provider such as reduced billing costs and faster appointment times with specialist. Indemnity and traditional coverage is the most asked for and sought after coverage by employees.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Point of Service (POS)

Point of service coverage gives members the freedom to decide on what medical services they need and then to decide if they will see a provider within the network or outside of the network. Over 4 million people receive POS coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield.

When covered by a POS plan, everything works best when the insured chooses a preferred provider within the network as their Primary Care Physician (PCP). Then all medical needs, questions, prescriptions, and care can go through the PCP. If the need for a specialist arises, the PCP can refer the patient to any doctor within the network or outside of the network. If the insured does not go through these channels, coverage may cost more.

A POS is managed similarly to an HMO plan but gives the insured a little more freedom of choice. Whereas with an HMO the insured does not have the option of any coverage outside the network, a POS offers some type of coverage outside the network when the correct procedure is followed.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization

A preferred provider organization (PPO) offers low cost health care to members who use health care providers that have contracted with the PPO for lower prices. This works well for providers because they know that patients will be coming their way. This works well for patients because they have a large group of qualified providers to choose from who want their business.

Over 65 million people are covered by a BCBS PPO. For members who like freedom to choose any doctor, hospital, clinic, or lab, a PPO may be too restrictive. But if you are looking for quality coverage at a reduced price, a PPO is a good choice.

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