Health Insurance Insurance

Which Health Insurance Option Is Right For Me?

HMO vs. PPO

Now that you know where you can purchase a health insurance plan, let’s explore the two main types of health insurance plans that insurers offer. HMO stands for Health Maintenance Organization. When you have an HMO plan, you must stay in-network for your medical care unless it’s a qualified emergency. You also need a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist. HMO plans usually come with lower monthly premiums than PPO plans.

PPO stands for Preferred Provider Organization. When you have a PPO plan, in-network medical care is less expensive than out-of-network care. But out-of-network care is still covered at a higher cost to you, unlike HMO plans which don’t cover out-of-network care at all. You also don’t need a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist. For these reasons, PPO plans tend to come with higher monthly premiums than HMO plans.

Out-of-pocket Costs

How much you pay out-of-pocket is arguably the most important factor to consider when choosing a health insurance plan. Between premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance, the costs easily add up. So you’ll want to carefully read the entire description of the health insurance plans you’re considering before you enroll.

Generally speaking, the higher your monthly premium, the lower your out-of-pocket costs will be. If you visit doctors often, have expensive prescription medications, have a chronic condition, or are planning a major surgery, you’ll probably benefit from a health insurance plan with a higher monthly premium that pays a larger portion of your medical costs. If you rarely visit doctors and have excellent health, getting a health insurance plan with a lower monthly premium may make sense since you won’t need much medical care.

FSA vs. HSA

One way to offset out-of-pocket costs is to participate in an savings account for medical expenses. There are two types: Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Both accounts have tax benefits. They typically come with a debit card for you to use funds at the time of paying for your medical expenses. You’ll also be able to submit eligible expenses for reimbursement if a debit card isn’t provided or if you don’t use the debit card.

There are some key differences between FSAs and HSAs though. Flexible Spending Accounts are linked to employer-sponsored health insurance plans. This means that you must have health insurance through an employer to qualify for an FSA. On the other hand, you can use an HSA with exchange-purchased health insurance plans. But, to qualify for an HSA, you must have a high-deductible health insurance plan.

Here’s a table that highlights some of the other differences between FSAs and HSAs:

 Flexible Spending AccountHealth Savings Account
(FSA)(HSA)
2017 contribution limit$2,600$3,400 for individual; $6,750 for family
Rollover terms"Use it or lose it," with two possible exceptionsUnused funds roll over from year-to-year
Tax benefitsContributions are tax deductible; growth is tax-free; withdrawals are untaxedContributions are pre-tax; withdrawals are untaxed

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing a health insurance plan. The more information you have readily available about your medical care, the simpler the process of deciding will be. This way, you can easily do things like rule out plans that don’t include your doctors as in-network and determine how high of a deductible you’re comfortable with. More often than not, it’s better to have comprehensive coverage and not need all of it than to have limited coverage and need more. After all, insurance is meant to cover you in the event of the unexpected.

Which health insurance fits your lifestyle better? Share with us below!

About the author

Aliyyah Camp

Aliyyah Camp

Aliyyah Camp is a personal finance writer who specializes in writing about ways to save money, make money, build credit, and invest. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania.

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