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The ABCs of Health Insurance: Types, Coverage, and Costs Explained

Health insurance can be a complex and confusing topic. Do you ever find yourself unsure about what type of coverage you have, what it includes, or how much it costs? You’re not alone. 

If you are looking to enroll in or change your health insurance plan, it’s essential to understand the basics. We’ll break down the ABCs of health insurance, explaining the different types of insurance plans available, what they cover, and how much they cost.

Types of Health Insurance Coverage

Health insurance offers different options to meet the needs of individuals and families. It is essential to understand the different types of health insurance, such as fee-for-service, HMOs, PPOs, POS, and catastrophic plans to make an informed decision. 

Fee-for-Service Plans 

Fee-for-service plans, also called indemnity plans, allow patients to choose any healthcare provider without network or referral restrictions. Patients have to pay a portion of the cost of care and may have high out-of-pocket expenses. Coinsurance is the percentage patients pay after the insurance provider has paid their share. These plans can be more expensive because they cover a more comprehensive range of services and healthcare providers. 

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) 

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) are a type of health insurance plan that provides comprehensive coverage for medical services through a network of providers. In this plan, patients must choose a primary care physician to oversee their healthcare and provide referrals

to specialists if necessary. HMOs are known for their low out-of-pocket costs and fixed co-payments, but they also have some limitations. 

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) 

A PPO type of health insurance allows policyholders to choose their preferred healthcare provider without a referral. PPOs have an extensive network of providers but may have higher out-of-pocket costs and premiums than HMOs. Understanding PPO costs and benefits can help policyholders make informed healthcare decisions. 

Point of Service Plans (POS) 

POS plans combine HMO and PPO plans, offering moderate freedom to choose healthcare providers while requiring a primary care doctor. Patients can see both in-network and out-of-network providers but have higher out-of-pocket costs and must handle the paperwork to file a claim. Out-of-pocket costs include premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. 

High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) 

High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) have lower monthly premiums but require patients to pay more out of pocket for medical expenses. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) may be offered to help cover costs. Patients must consider their expenses and ability to pay before choosing an HDHP. Care outside of the network may result in higher prices. Proper documentation is necessary for tax benefits of HSA contributions.


Health insurance coverage refers to the medical services an insurance plan will pay for. Knowing what is covered before choosing a plan to avoid unexpected costs is essential. The following are a few of the most common types of coverage: 

Inpatient Care 

Inpatient care refers to medical treatment that requires an overnight stay in a healthcare facility and is covered differently depending on the type of health insurance plan. Fee-for-service plans, HMOs, PPOs, POS plans, and HDHPs cover inpatient care but may require pre-authorization, network limitations, or a high deductible to be met before coverage kicks in. Understanding the specifics of your plan’s inpatient care coverage and associated costs is essential. 

Outpatient Care 

Outpatient care is a vital healthcare service that includes medical procedures, diagnostic tests, and doctor’s appointments. The coverage for outpatient care varies among different health insurance plans, and it is essential to review the benefits and limitations of each. The Coverage to Care program provides resources to help individuals navigate the healthcare system and

make informed decisions. Healthcare providers and community organizations can collaborate with C2C to reach underserved populations. 

Prescription Drugs 

Medicare prescription drug coverage is available through a standalone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or as part of a Medicare Advantage plan. Low-income subsidy assists those who qualify based on income and resources. Medicare Supplement plans can help with additional costs such as co-payments and deductibles. Prescription drugs may be organized into drug tiers that vary by plan. Choosing a plan based on an individual’s health needs and budget is essential. 

Emergency Care 

Emergency care is medical attention needed urgently due to severe injury or illness and can be received at emergency rooms or urgent care centers, sometimes requiring ambulance services. Different health insurance plans provide varying levels of coverage for emergency care, with fee-for-service plans offering coverage from any healthcare provider. 

Other plans such as HMOs, PPOs, POS, and HDHPs also provide some coverage. Still, co-payments, coinsurance, and deductibles may apply, and it’s important to understand coverage outside the plan’s network.

Maternity and Newborn Care 

Maternity and Newborn Care is an Essential Health Benefit covered by all insurance plans, but coverage may differ. Most plans cover prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum care. HMOs require policyholders to select a primary care physician, while PPOs allow policyholders to see any provider within their network. 

Costs associated with maternity and newborn care can be significant, and those with an HDHP should carefully consider their financial readiness for this type of care. 

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment 

Health insurance plans should cover mental health and substance abuse treatment, but coverage and benefits differ depending on the plan. The Parity Act requires equal coverage for these services compared to medical and surgical services. When choosing a plan, it is vital to check the definitions of health conditions and services. Low-income Medicare beneficiaries can receive assistance through Extra Help or Low-Income Subsidy programs.

Rehabilitation Services 

Rehabilitation services, which includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and durable medical equipment, are important for individuals recovering from illness or injury. Health insurance plans may cover some or all of these services, with limitations or requirements for access. Understanding what is covered under your plan is essential to make informed healthcare decisions. 

Preventive Care 

Preventive care is vital for detecting health problems early or avoiding them altogether, leading to a healthier population and reduced healthcare costs. It includes routine check-ups, cancer screenings, vaccinations, and counseling services, which may be covered by health insurance at no expense to the insured, but some services may still require cost-sharing. 


When it comes to health insurance, understanding the various costs associated with different plans is crucial. Depending on the type of plan and coverage, individuals may be responsible for paying extra costs. Knowing what these terms mean and how they impact your overall expenses is important.


Premiums are individuals’ regular monthly payments to maintain their health insurance coverage. They can vary based on plan type, coverage level, age, and location. Higher premiums do not always mean better coverage, and it’s crucial to consider out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance when comparing plans. 


Deductibles are the money a policyholder must pay before insurance coverage starts and can impact out-of-pocket costs. Family deductibles cover a group of individuals, and high-deductible health plans usually have lower monthly premiums but require higher out-of-pocket costs. Comparing plans to determine the best option for healthcare needs is essential. 


Co-payments are a way for insured individuals to share the cost of medical care by paying a fixed amount at the time of the visit. These vary depending on the plan and are generally higher for specialist and emergency room visits. Some plans waive co-payments for preventive services to encourage their use. Co-payments, along with deductibles and coinsurance, help make healthcare more affordable for the insured and ensure insurance companies can cover the cost of healthcare. 


Coinsurance is the percentage of medical expenses that a policyholder must pay after their deductible has been met. The coinsurance amount varies depending on the insurance plan and may apply to specific medical services. Insurance companies cover the remaining coinsurance, subject to variable costs. Policyholders must understand their coinsurance to plan for out-of-pocket expenses and make informed healthcare decisions. 

Out-of-Pocket Maximum 

The out-of-pocket maximum is an essential factor to consider when choosing a health insurance plan. It is the highest amount an individual has to pay for covered medical expenses in a year, including co-payments, deductibles, coinsurance, prescription drugs, hospital stays, and outpatient procedures. Once reached, insurance companies will cover all remaining expenses. This understanding is crucial in finding the right plan. 

Choosing the Right Health Insurance 

Choosing the right health insurance can be intimidating and overwhelming. There are many types of plans, various coverage options, and different costs to consider. It’s crucial to understand the basics of health insurance to make an informed decision that fits your healthcare needs and financial situation. 

Factors to Consider 

When selecting a health insurance plan, it is crucial to consider individual needs. Evaluating network coverage, preferred providers, and out-of-pocket costs is also vital. Different plan types and tax benefits, such as HSAs, should also be considered. Careful consideration of all factors is necessary to choose the best plan for individual situations. 

Comparing Plans 

When choosing a health insurance plan, comparing factors like monthly premiums, deductibles, co-payments, coinsurance, and network of providers is essential. Plans with lower premiums may have higher out-of-pocket costs, while plans with higher premiums may have lower out-of-pocket costs. The deductible determines when coverage begins, while co-payments and coinsurance affect how much you pay for healthcare. Checking the network of providers is also essential to ensure that preferred doctors and specialists are covered. 

Enrollment Periods 

Enrollment Periods for health insurance include the Waiting Period, Open Enrollment Period, Qualifying Life Event, and Special Enrollment Period. Missing these periods can result in penalties and delayed coverage. Qualifying Life Events and Special Enrollment Periods allow enrollment outside of Open Enrollment. Understanding these periods is crucial for maximizing coverage and avoiding unwanted costs or restrictions. 

Final Thoughts 

Understanding the basics of health insurance, including types, coverage, and costs, is essential in making informed decisions about your healthcare. By knowing the ins and outs of health insurance, you can ensure you have the coverage you need while keeping costs as low as possible. 

If you want to learn more about health insurance options and how they can benefit you, contact our team at Insurance Enterprise today. We can help you find the right coverage for your needs and budget.