It is important to have health insurance at every stage of your life in order to pay for routine medical care and any unexpected medical bills. Health insurance provides greater access to health care, which is necessary for maintaining your health, preventing illness and catching illnesses when they are most treatable. 

In order to obtain affordable health insurance, it is important to learn more about common terminologies used in health care, such as premiums and coinsurance, as well as learn how you can compare health insurance quotes and learn whether or not you qualify for low-income programs, such as Medicaid. 

In addition to obtaining health insurance, it is important to consider obtaining dental insurance if it is not currently a part of your policy. There are other forms of insurance that you may want to consider, such as short-term insurance and travel insurance plans, depending on your situation.

Why is having health insurance coverage important? 

Having health insurance is vital to your overall health and wellbeing. In fact, it often takes uninsured individuals far longer to receive the medical care they need and they may not receive enough medical care due to their lack of coverage. 

The benefits of having health insurance far outweigh the costs of enrolling in a policy, especially in the event of unforeseen medical issues or a medical emergency. If you do not have health insurance, not only will you be putting your health at risk but you could also rack up a substantial amount of debt due to unforeseen medical bills. 

Common Health Insurance Terminology

When reviewing your health insurance options, it is important to understand common health insurance terminology. In doing so, you will be more familiar with the costs that you can expect to pay for your coverage as well as the type of medical services that will be covered under your policy. 

Premiums

A health insurance premium is the amount of money that you must pay each month (or quarter depending on your policy) to maintain your health insurance coverage. This is usually the first cost that you will see when reviewing your health insurance options. While premium fees are an important consideration, other health insurance costs such as deductibles and coinsurance amounts can be far more important. 

Copayments

A copayment refers to a flat dollar amount that must be paid to medical providers for a covered service. This amount is typically due at the time that you receive service. This amount is relatively low, averaging between $10 and $50. However, if you have frequent visits with your doctor, you may be able to save more money by looking for a health insurance plan that offers lower copayments. 

Deductibles

The deductible for a health insurance policy is an important factor that should be considered greatly when selecting an insurance policy. Essentially, a deductible is an amount you must pay for covered services before your insurer will begin to pay a portion of your costs. For example, if your deductible is $1,000, then you must pay $1,000 towards your medical bills before your insurance will begin to pay. Additionally, these amounts will essentially “reset” each benefit period. 

The deductible on a policy heavily impacts the policy’s premium amount. Generally, a plan that has a lower deductible will have higher premium costs. Experts recommend that you select a plan that a deductible that does not exceed five percent of your gross annual income. 

Coinsurance

Your coinsurance amount is a percentage based cost that you must pay for covered services once your deductible has been met. For example, if your health insurance provider will pay 80 percent of the cost of covered services and you are expected to pay 20 percent, that 20 percent amount is your coinsurance. 

Maximum Out-of-Pocket Costs

Your maximum out-of-pocket costs refer to the maximum amount of money that you will need to pay towards medical services that are covered under your health insurance policy in a benefit period. This amount does not include your premium fees. However, depending on your policy, the amount may include copayments, coinsurance and deductible amounts. Once you have reached your out-of-pocket cost, your insurer will begin to pay 100 percent of all of your covered medical expenses. 

Obtaining Health Insurance Coverage

Once you are ready to select a health insurance policy, it is important to review what your options may be. If you are currently employed, your employer may office a health insurance policy for you to consider. While employer-offered insurance is generally the cheapest option, you are not required to obtain a policy that is offered to you through your employer. 

If you are unemployed, self-employed or you wish to obtain a different policy than what your employer has to offer, you can enroll in health insurance policy through the Marketplace for health insurance on healthcare.gov. 

After you complete an application on healthcare.gov and provide your personal information, including your income, you will be able to view and compare the various insurance policies available within your area. Additionally, you will be informed if you may qualify for a state or federal health insurance program, such as Medicaid, which is primarily income-based. 

When selecting a health insurance plan from the Marketplace, it is important to know that the Affordable Care Act ensures that households with income levels between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line can receive tax credits. These tax credits then lower the cost of the health insurance plans that are available to you on the Marketplace. The number of tax credits that you qualify for are based upon your income.

Insurance for Dental Services

Having a dental insurance policy provides similar benefits to having health insurance coverage. Dental insurance also used much of the same terminology, including premiums, deductibles, copayments and coinsurances. However, dental insurance policies are often far cheaper than that of health insurance, have lower deductibles and may have lower copayment amounts. 

Some health insurance policies will include dental insurance automatically. If your policy does not include dental insurance, you can obtain a standalone dental insurance policy through the Marketplace or your employer. 

It is also worth knowing that, if you are enrolled in a state Medicaid program, you may or may not have dental insurance. Dental insurance is considered as “optional coverage” by the federal government, and is, thus, left up to states to determine whether or not to include dental insurance within Medicaid policies. 

Other Health Coverage Options

While health and dental insurances are the most common form of health care insurance, there are other forms of health coverage that you may want to consider depending on your circumstances. 

Short-Term Insurance

Short-term insurance plans provide gap insurance coverage for a short, pre-determined amount of time. These plans do not typically include any medical services outside of emergency services. You may want to consider obtaining short-term insurance if you are anticipating a gap in your current health insurance. 

Travel Insurance

Most U.S. health insurance policies do not include any medical services, including emergency services, outside of the United States. While this is not always the case, it is important to consider travel insurance if you intend to travel outside of the U.S. or abroad. Before traveling, you should always contact your health insurance provider in order to determine whether or not you will be covered for any medical services that you receive in the event of an emergency.