Confused by all of the health insurance jargon? This dictionary will help you sort it out.
Explanation of Benefits: The insurance company’s written explanation to a claim, showing what they paid and what the client must pay. Sometimes accompanied by a benefits check.
Generic Drug: A “twin” to a “brand name drug” once the brand name company’s patent has run out and other drug companies are allowed to sell a duplicate of the original. Generic drugs are cheaper, and most prescription and health plans reward clients for choosing generics.
Group Insurance: Coverage through an employer or other entity that covers all individuals in the group.
Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs): Health Maintenance Organizations represent “pre-paid” or “capitated” insurance plans in which individuals or their employers pay a fixed monthly fee for services, instead of a separate charge for each visit or service. The monthly fees remain the same, regardless of types or levels of services provided, Services are provided by physicians who are employed by, or under contract with, the HMO. HMOs vary in design. Depending on the type of the HMO, services may be provided in a central facility or in a physician’s own office (as with IPAs.)
HIPAA: A Federal law passed in 1996 that allows persons to qualify immediately for comparable health insurance coverage when they change their employment or relationships. It also creates the authority to mandate the use of standards for the electronic exchange of health care data; to specify what medical and administrative code sets should be used within those standards; to require the use of national identification systems for health care patients, providers, payers (or plans), and employers (or sponsors); and to specify the types of measures required to protect the security and privacy of personally identifiable health care. Full name is “The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.”
In-network: Providers or health care facilities which are part of a health plan’s network of providers with which it has negotiated a discount. Insured individuals usually pay less when using an in-network provider, because those networks provide services at lower cost to the insurance companies with which they have contracts.
Indemnity Health Plan: Indemnity health insurance plans are also called “fee-for-service.” These are the types of plans that primarily existed before the rise of HMOs, IPAs, and PPOs. With indemnity plans, the individual pays a pre-determined percentage of the cost of health care services, and the insurance company (or self-insured employer) pays the other percentage. For example, an individual might pay 20 percent for services and the insurance company pays 80 percent. The fees for services are defined by the providers and vary from physician to physician. Indemnity health plans offer individuals the freedom to choose their health care professionals.
Independent Practice Associations (IPAs): IPAs are similar to HMOs, except that individuals receive care in a physician’s own office, rather than in an HMO facility.
Individual Health Insurance: Health insurance coverage on an individual, not group, basis. The premium is usually higher for individual health insurance than for a group policy, but you may not qualify for a group plan.
Lifetime Maximum Benefit (or Maximum Lifetime Benefit): The maximum amount a health plan will pay in benefits to an insured individual during that individual’s lifetime.