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What is health insurance?

woman thinking about health insuranceWith so many different insurance choices out there for purchase these days, you might be wondering about health insurance and what exactly it is. Just like car insurance protects your car, and home insurance protects your home and property, health insurance protects you and your health. It might also protect the health of your spouse and other dependents.

For quick health insurance quotes, just type your zip code into the free box on this page!

According to “The History of Health Insurance in the United States,”  individual health insurance started being offered during the time of the Civil War. The very first group health insurance policy was offered in Boston in 1847 by Massachusetts Health Insurance, and modern group health insurance took shape about 80 years later.

Health insurance is supposed to help share the cost of medical reimbursement for both basic and advanced procedures. Depending on the plan, that level of reimbursement varies greatly. Basic health insurance helps make sure that people see a doctor for annual exams and get immunized as needed. It also provides for doctor visits when somebody is sick, allowing them to get correctly diagnosed and treated.

How do I get health insurance if I work?

A large number of people get their health insurance coverage through their employer. Health insurance is usually part of the benefits package at a job, along with paid vacation days and sick days. Depending on the company for which you work, as well as its size, you may get your health insurance totally free or you may have to contribute part of your income toward the coverage. When it comes to insuring your dependents, it is more common these days for the company to only partially pay for their coverage while you will have to pay for the rest.

Because the medical coverage is provided by your company, you will probably have little choice as to the type of insurance and the provider. Preferred Provider Organizations, or PPOs, allow you the most flexibility in choosing the doctors you wish to see. Insurance covers you when you go to providers in the network, and reimburses you most of the costs of seeing practitioners out of the PPO network.

POS, or Point of Service, plans work similarly to PPOs, but you need to get a referral from an in-network provider in order to be insured when seeing a provider out of network. HMOs have stricter rules of use, and often don’t sanction exams and other medical procedures that they deem unnecessary.

How do I get health insurance if I’m currently unemployed?

If you work for yourself, are an independent contractor, or are unemployed, you can still get health insurance through individual health plans purchased directly from a health insurance provider such as Aetna or Humana. Our free toolbox on this page will help you find providers of individual health insurance policies in your area.

In order to get a quote, you’ll need to enter basic information about yourself and those that you wish to insure. This information will include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Town in which you live
  • Whether or not you use tobacco
  • Whether or not you have a preexisting medical condition
  • Whether or not you currently use prescription medication

If you’ve recently been let go from a job, you might also qualify for health coverage under a COBRA plan. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act gives you the option of extending your past employer’s health insurance coverage for a limited amount of time. While this ensures that you and your dependents are still protected, you will most likely have to foot the bill for the premiums, not your previous employer.

Senior citizens and the disabled should also qualify for some form of health insurance protection under the terms of Medicare and Medicaid. There are many providers that help administer these social health programs and you should contact one of them, or your local AARP chapter, for more information.

How do I decide what health insurance plan to choose?

As with any insurance, you should always start by assessing your needs and then choose the coverage that bests protects you. Depending on your budget and your health history, you may choose to spend less and go with an HMO or spend more and pick a more traditional plan that allows you to see any doctor or healthcare provider that you want.

If you need allergy shots, you’ll want to make sure the plan you choose reimburses you for specialist visits to the allergist, for instance. If you currently have healthcare practitioners that you like and trust, make sure any new policy you choose includes those providers in their network coverage. If you have a history of serious conditions, such as cancer, in your family, you may even consider spending more money to also purchase cancer care coverage.

You can figure out your needs and then enter your zip code below, choosing from health insurance rates offered by the best providers in your area.