How to Find the Best Health Insurance Plans

Health insurance plans can be confusing. They vary widely in terms of their monthly costs, what they cover and how much you have to pay out of pocket when you see the doctor or go to the hospital.

It is essential to find affordable health insurance, as medical bills can add up quickly, especially if you have a lengthy hospital stay or a chronic illness such as managing diabetes.

These high bills can be difficult to pay down. It can be tempting to put off getting the health care you need if you do not have health insurance, but that can lead to more serious health issues down the road.

Health insurance companies often a variety of plans at different price points.

Although it is tempting to just choose the cheapest one, you may end up with high out-of-pocket costs if you choose a plan based on a low premium.

It is best to look at the plan as a whole to decide which health insurance plan will best meet your needs.

Learn About the Types of Health Insurance Plans

The best health insurance is the health insurance that works best for you and your family in terms of costs, benefits and providers.

Insurance plans have standardized health coverage options and health providers within each category.

Cigna health insurance and other popular insurance providers typically have the following plan options:

  • HMOs—Health Maintenance Organizations, or HMOs, are a common type of plan offered by Aetna health insurance and other providers. With an HMO, all your care (except for emergency care) has to go through your primary doctor. Your primary physician refers you to specialists when needed. With these family or individual health insurance plans, you typically have to stay within your provider network to receive services.
  • PPOs—Preferred Provider Organizations, or PPOs, offer more flexibility. You can choose your own doctors, but it is considerably less expensive to see an in-network doctor. You do not typically need a referral to see a specialist.
  • EPOs—Exclusive Provider Organizations, or EPOs, do not require referrals to see a specialist. There is no coverage for out-of-network providers, however.
  • POS—Point of Service plans, or POS plans, allow you to see in-network or out-of-network providers. You do need to get referrals to see a specialist.

Many of these plans may also offer a high-deductible version. These may be an option if you are looking for low income health insurance, as the premiums tend to be low. You are still responsible for any costs until you meet the deductible, so this is not the best option if you frequently see the doctor.

Find Out About Popular Health Insurance Companies

A list of health insurance companies would be nearly endless, as there are companies all over the country. In addition to regional health insurance companies, there are some insurers who have a large, national presence. These include:

  • BlueCross/BlueShield. BCBS offers coverage throughout the U.S. and even overseas. It offers HMOs and PPOs as well as Obama health care plans that you can find in your state’s health insurance marketplace.
  • Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser is an HMO, but they have dedicated health care centers and hospitals that make it easy to see the specialists you need.
  • UnitedHealthCare. UnitedHealthCare is the largest health insurer in the U.S. and it has a user-friendly online portal.
  • Aetna. Many employers offer Aetna health insurance plans, and it has a large provider network.
  • Cigna. Cigna offers health insurance in 12 states and it has a large network.

To find the best health insurance plans in your area, consider asking family members and friends about their experiences. They may be able to help you find a plan that works for you.

Things to Consider When Selecting Individual Health Insurance Plans

Finding affordable health insurance is a balancing act. To find the right plan for you and your family, consider the plan as a whole, rather than just the premium.

For example, health insurance companies typically offer plans with a variety of copayments (copays), coinsurance and deductibles.

Copays are a set dollar amount that you pay for a service. For example, each time you see your primary doctor, you may have a $20 copay due at the time of your visit.

This amount can change annually, so it is important to review your plan each year.

Coinsurance is the percentage of the cost of the service you need to pay. For example, you may need to pay 20 percent coinsurance for durable medical equipment.

Deductibles are how much you pay before coverage starts. You may think that a low-cost plan with a $3,000 is the best health insurance for you.

A plan with a $3,000 deductible means that you pay for the first $3,000 each year in health care costs before your insurance plan covers anything. However, you may not have to pay for all costs.

Many plans allow you to see the doctor annually for a physical without having to pay the full cost, even if your plan has a high deductible.

Learn About Low Income Health Insurance Options

Affordable health insurance is not out of reach even if you have limited means. There are several low income health insurance options. Medicaid health insurance coverage is one of the most popular options.

The specifics of Medicaid vary by state, but if you qualify, you may be eligible for very low cost or free health insurance.

Short-term health insurance is an option if you are between jobs and relatively healthy. It provides coverage for up to six months. These health insurance plans typically just cover emergency care, though.  

Medicare health insurance is also available if you meet the age requirements or have a qualifying medical condition. Medicare offers several different insurance plans from which to choose.

Affordable Care Act plans, sometimes known as Obama health plans, are another option. These plans can be found in your state’s marketplace, and you may qualify for a subsidy, which is a federal tax credit.

Depending on your income level, you may also get assistance with paying your out-of-pocket costs as well.

If you do not have health insurance through your work or a family member, the best place to look is in your state’s marketplace.

In the marketplace, you can apply for Medicaid and see if you qualify for other health insurance assistance.