How Do I Compare Plans?
After you review what benefits are available and decide what is important to you, you can compare plans. Many things should be considered. These include services offered, choices of providers, location, and cost. The quality of care is also a factor to think about (see the next section on Quality).
Look at the services offered by each plan. What services are limited or not covered? Is there a good match between what is provided and what you think you will need? For example, if you have a chronic disease, is there a special program for that illness? Will the plan provide the medicines and equipment you may need?
Find out what types of care or services the plan won’t pay for. These usually are called exclusions.
Few indemnity and managed care plans cover treatments that are experimental. Ask how the plan decides what is or is not experimental. Find out what you can do if you disagree with a plan’s decision on medical care or coverage.
What doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers are part of the plan? Are there enough of the kinds of doctors you want to see? Do you need to choose a primary care doctor? If you want to see a specialist, can you refer yourself or must your primary care doctor refer you? Do you need approval from the plan before going into the hospital or getting specialty care?
Where will you go for care? Are these places near where you work or live? How does the plan handle care when you are away from home?
After deciding what is important to you, you can compare plans. Consider services offered, choices of providers, location, cost, and quality.
No health insurance plan will cover every expense. To get a true idea of what your costs will be under each plan, you need to look at how much you will pay for your premium and other costs.
- Are there deductibles you must pay before the insurance begins to help cover your cost?
- After you have met your deductible, what part of your costs are paid by the plan? Does this amount vary by the type of service, doctor, or health facility used?
- Are there co-payments you must pay for certain services, such as doctor visits? If you use doctors outside a plan’s network, how much more will you pay to get care?
- If a plan does not cover certain services or care that you think you will need, how much will you have to pay?
- Are there any limits to how much you must pay in case of major illness?
- Is there a limit on how much the plan will pay for your care in a year or over a lifetime? A single hospital stay for a serious condition could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
You can’t know in advance what your health care needs for the coming year will be. But you can guess what services you and your family might need. Figure out what the total costs to your family would be for these services under each plan.