Health and medical insurance is something that everyone should have to protect good health and financial stability. Most Americans cannot afford to pay medical expenses for a serious illness or accident out-of-pocket. Unfortunately, many hospitals cannot perform necessary surgeries unless a patient has health insurance coverage.
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There are multiple ways for individuals and families to get affordable health insurance. Insurance can be purchased through an employer, purchased privately or can be provided by a government-funded program.
Who should have health insurance?
Children need insurance to provide medical care for the array of childhood colds, viruses, and accidents that are a part of growing up. They need it for certain immunizations from deadly diseases such as measles and polio. Glasses and dental care may also be covered by some insurance plans.
Young adults need medical coverage for illnesses such as the flu or food poisoning that can crop up; they also need it for hospital coverage, as this age bracket is the most prone to serious accidents.
Adults must have insurance to cover maternity costs, possible surgeries, prescriptions, and serious illnesses. Treatment for cancer or heart disease can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, or beyond.
Elderly adults use insurance coverage in case they develop illnesses or conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Good health insurance is important during the “golden years” in order to protect quality of life. Some insurance policies will pay for long-term care associated with end-of-life care.
Insurance is important for all age groups because it increases healthy habits and decreases the likelihood of developing a preventable disease. In 2009, Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a study that showed that uninsured, working Americans had a 40% higher risk of death than those with health insurance.
The authors of the study believe that percentage works out to about 45,000 deaths a year due to the lack of health insurance. Risk factors, such as smoking, were taken into account to get the actual number of Americans who are dying because they simply cannot afford to see a doctor.
Where is insurance available?
Usually the most affordable coverage is provided by an employer. The monthly premium for health insurance is shared between the employer and the employee. Group rates can lead to lower monthly premiums.
Private insurance can also be purchased through an insurance provider. It is generally more expensive because you alone must pay the monthly premiums. However, buying private insurance does allow you to compare providers and tailor a policy to fit your health care needs.
There are also a number of federal and state programs for those who cannot afford any other insurance. Medicaid is a state-governed insurance for those with low incomes. States also offer their own insurance programs for those with low incomes or children who are not covered under any insurance policy.
There are also federal programs that are for certain age groups or some other-defined group. Military veterans can receive insurance from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Medicare is a federal program to provide health benefits to citizens who are over 65 or disabled.
What types of health insurance are available?
Managed care policies lower costs by requiring participants to choose physicians, hospitals, and other providers from a list of approved providers. These approved providers agree to offer lower health care rates to the group.
Health maintenance organizations (HMOs), preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and point of service plans (POSs) are all variations of managed care plans. These plans usually have lower premiums, but they also involve copayments for most health services
Indemnity plans give more flexibility and freedom compared to managed care policies. Policyholders can choose their own doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies. Instead of copayments, you must first pay a deductible. A deductible is a set amount that must be paid out-of-pocket for health care services; after the deductible is met, the insurance pays all, or a portion of the medical bills.
A health savings account (HSA) is an alternative option to comprehensive health coverage. Money accrues in the account until it is needed to pay for a health care service; it is also non-taxable money. HSAs are regularly paired with a high deductible, or catastrophe plan to protect you if you have an accident or illness that will have high medical costs.
There are also plans that offer limited coverage for a low cost. These plans can be tricky as they have various coverage and options; you might not know that you don’t have coverage for a specific illness or procedure until it is too late.
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