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Is Your Plan Self-Insured or Employer-Sponsored?

Whether you are self-insured or participate in an employer-sponsored health plan is also important. The type of plan you have determines your rights to appeal a denial of coverage or other negative decision by the health plan.

Self-Insured or Individually Purchased

If you enrolled in a health plan on your own (not through an employer) and pay the premiums entirely yourself, then you are self-insured.

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

If you are enrolled in a health plan through work, you have employer-sponsored health insurance.

There are two types of employer-sponsored plans. The type you have is key to your appeal rights if you disagree with a health plan decision to deny coverage. (To learn more about your right to appeal a health plan decision, see Nolo's article Health Plan Disputes: An Overview.) The two types of employer-sponsored plans are:

Ask your employer's benefits administrator which type of plan you have, since it's not always obvious from the plan's title. Some employers with self-funded plans use a health insurance company to serve as a third party administrator. So, for example, if your plan documents say "Aetna," your plan may be insured through Aetna or it may self-funded by your employer and merely administered by Aetna.                                                                                                

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Understanding Your Health Insurance Coverage by: Kathleen Michon, Attorney

You can avoid many health plan disputes by learning exactly how your insurance coverage works.

If you have health insurance coverage, it is essential that you understand the details of your plan. By knowing the ins and outs of your health insurance -- including what services are covered and the procedures you must follow to get coverage for certain types of treatment -- you can avoid disputes with your health insurance company. Learning the particulars of your health insurance is also a good way to ensure that you take maximum advantage of all the benefits the plan offers.

This article tells you what you need to know about your health insurance plan and how to find the information you need.

Why You Must Understand Your Health Insurance Coverage

If you don't understand your health insurance coverage, it can end up costing you. Far too often, when insurance companies deny payment for medical services, it's because the consumer didn't follow the required procedures or failed to understand the limits of coverage.

Here are some examples of common (and costly) mistakes that happen when consumers don't understand the details of their health insurance plan:

In order to avoid these and other costly mistakes, here's what you need to know about your health plan.

What Type of Health Plan Do You Have?

Start with the basics and determine which type of health plan you have. Most plans fit into one of the following:

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). In a PPO, the plan contracts with physicians and hospitals to provide services at reduced cost. If you use these in-network medical providers, the plan pays all or most of the cost of treatment. Participants can use out-of-network health care providers, but must pay a larger portion of the cost.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). An HMO is a group plan in which members prepay a flat fee and are given access to the services of participating doctors, hospitals, and clinics. Members typically make copayments, but do not need to pay deductibles.

Fee-for-Service (traditional indemnity). This is the traditional plan in which the participant can visit any doctor or health facility (for the most part). The participant pays for the service, and then submits a claim to the insurance company for reimbursement.