Additional Medical Coverage Options

While health insurance is often discussed as one monolithic program, there are actually several types of medical insurance options available on the market today.

There are several types of comprehensive health insurance plans beyond the individual policy you may have come across in your state insurance marketplace, such as group health insurance plans and international health insurance policies. In addition, there are numerous types of supplemental medical insurance plans to cover you during brief periods or that are specifically designed for students. Vision and dental coverage are common additions to basic medical policies as well. Some of these health plans meet the minimum standard of care as laid out in the Affordable Care Act, while others are intended to supplement other policies. Understanding the differences between each type of health insurance plan is important for helping you decide what sort of healthcare policy may be able to best meet your needs. Keep reading for more information about additional medical coverage options to the basic health insurance policy available in the state marketplace.

Short-Term Insurance Plans

Short-term health insurance policies originated as a solution for individuals who might have to face brief periods of time without medical insurance due to a loss of employment or other temporary situation. In the past, short-term health insurance policies could only last up to a few months, but recent changes in federal health insurance policy has extended that limitation to one year. Because these plans are only meant to provide coverage for emergencies, they do not offer comprehensive health coverage and are not compliant with the minimum standards of care as set out by the Affordable Care Act. In fact, short-term insurance policies are sometimes known as catastrophe or emergency insurance policies because their coverage only really kicks in if the policyholder has a serious, and therefore costly, medical situation. Most short-term insurance plans require policyholders to pay relatively low monthly or annual premiums for participation in the program, but ask for extremely high out-of-pocket payments in deductibles and coinsurance for use.

As a type of health insurance that is not ACA compliant, short-term insurance providers can deny applicants for a range of reasons, including being pregnant, having a pre-existing health condition, being severely overweight or obese and many common medical situations. While basic coverage in full health insurance policies always covers preventative care visits, short-term insurance policies do not have to meet any basic minimums. However, most short-term insurance plans generally include coverage for emergency room treatment, inpatient and outpatient doctor’s visits, ambulance transport, surgical procedures and much more. These plans are generally only recommended for young and relatively healthy individuals who do not expect to have any significant medical needs during the period of coverage. For people who are unexpectedly left without access to health coverage, being able to apply for a short-term insurance policy at any time of year instead of waiting for an open enrollment period is an attractive benefit.

International Health Insurance Plans

International health insurance plans are generally comprehensive insurance plans that cover policyholders when traveling outside their country of citizenship or residence for one year or more. International health insurance plans are not regulated by the ACA in the same way as other health insurance policies, particularly because insurance providers of this type of policy are based around the world. Individuals shopping specifically for ACA compliant international health insurance can find options domestically, if desired. Most international health insurance policies are eligible to citizens from around the world up to an age limit of about 75 years.

While individuals can purchase international healthcare plans privately, schools, businesses and other organizations often invest in group international health insurance to be able to provide medical coverage to their members when traveling with the group. Along the same lines, many insurance providers offer short-term international health insurance when going abroad for shorter periods of time or multiple trip policies that can cover several short trips over the policy coverage period. The price range of most international health insurance plans depends significantly on the countries in which the policyholder plans to travel. Most notably, individuals with travel to the United States, or Americans who expect to spend any time domestically during their travels, will need to pay significantly higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs for health insurance coverage in the United States.

Vision Insurance Plans

Medical insurance for vision coverage is surprisingly lacking in many basic health insurance policies, even when ACA compliant. To mediate this problem, interested individuals can invest in one of multiple types of vision insurance plans to offset the cost of their vision services. Many insurance providers offer standalone vision insurance, generally in a managed healthcare network format, which can include various levels of coverage beyond eye checkups and usually one pair or prescription glasses. Individuals with a general health insurance policy either through an employer or the state insurance marketplace can contact their insurance provider to find out what coverage for vision services is specifically included in their plan and whether they offer an option vision coverage rider. In fact, adding a rider attaching vision coverage to your medical or dental plan may be the simplest and most economical way for you to gain access to adequate vision services. Shoppers of vision coverage may also be interested in learning about vision discount plans, which are similar to vision insurance policies in that they can save you upwards of 50 percent on the typical out-of-pocket costs for vision care but are different because they offer blanket discounts for a schedule of services that you pay for yourself.

Most vision insurance policies include free annual exams and one pair of prescription eyewear. Anything beyond these basic services varies from plan to plan, including eyeglass lens tinting, eye surgery and more. Major eye procedures like LASIK and PRK vision correction are rarely covered by vision insurance, but can be paid for at a discount with many vision insurance or discount programs. Because the average cost for vision services is relatively low, premiums for vision coverage can be as low as a few dollars a month. Standalone vision policies usually come in at somewhere around $15 to $75 a month. If you are shopping for vision coverage, make sure to compare the coverage for the specific vision services you expect to need in the near future between various plans.

Group Health Insurance

Group health insurance policies are the primary way that adults receive medical coverage in the United States. More than 150 million people have health insurance through an employer-based group policy, while millions more receive care through membership in an organization that offers group participants access to coverage. So many people prefer getting coverage through a group plan because, in most cases, group insurance policies can offer policyholders the best coverage for the best price. This is because employers and many groups subsidize between 50 and 70 percent of the cost of these insurance plans that would otherwise fall directly onto the shoulders of the policyholder.

In addition, group health insurance policies are regulated by the ACA and therefore meet the minimum ACA requirements for health care. Even more, no employee or group member can be turned down for participation in a group insurance policy for a pre-existing condition. Per the ACA, large businesses with over 50 employees must offer full-time workers health insurance but small businesses, part-time works, independent contractors and some other groups are excluded from these rules. Most group insurance policies cap the maximum out-of-pocket costs for policyholders at about $7,000 a year through a combination of premium payments, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.

Student Health Insurance Plans

Student health insurance plans are a specific type of group insurance policy geared directly towards those individuals enrolled in school. Because student populations tend to be younger and healthier than average, insurance providers are able to offer schools and education institutions great rates on health coverage. Like other comprehensive insurance plans, health insurance policies for students must meet basic ACA standards of care and cannot reject an applicant for coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Many school customize their group insurance policy to be able to offer even more coverage that specifically serves the student demographic at low prices.

It is important to note that there are multiple types of health insurance coverage that are suitable for students, not just student health insurance policies managed by schools. Students may be able to saving some money by remaining on their parents’ healthcare coverage until they are 26 years of age, joining their employer’s health insurance scheme or applying for Medicaid coverage for low-earning individuals. Students under the age of 30 years are also often eligible for catastrophic insurance policies which meet the minimum standards of care but with very low premiums and very high additional out-of-pocket costs. If necessary, students can opt for short-term insurance plans as well though they do not provide comprehensive medical coverage.

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