Insurance terms

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In-Network

In-network refers to healthcare providers (doctors, hospitals, etc.) contracted with your insurance company to provide services at negotiated rates. Using in-network providers, who are included in your plan, often results in lower out-of-pocket costs for insured individuals.

Independent Review Organization

Within the healthcare industry, an independent review organization (IRO) acts as a third-party medical review resource which provides objective, unbiased medical determinations that support effective decision making, based only on medical evidence.

Individual Mandate

The Individual Mandate, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), required most Americans to have health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. It aimed to increase the number of people with health insurance to balance risk pools and keep premiums affordable.

Individual Market

Often referred to simply as the “Marketplace” or the “Exchange,” this service helps you shop for and enroll in health insurance for you and your family through websites, call centers and in-person help.

Insurance

Insurance is a contract, represented by a policy, in which a policyholder receives financial protection or reimbursement against losses from an insurance company.

Insurance Commissioner

An insurance commissioner is a public official in the executive branch of a state or territory in the United States who, along with their office, regulates the insurance industry.

Insurance Policy

A document detailing the terms and conditions of a contract of insurance.

Insurance Premium

Like a subscription fee, an insurance premium is the amount you pay, often monthly, to your insurance company to maintain your health coverage. It's the cost of having an insurance policy regardless of whether you use healthcare services.

Insured

An insured is a party who is insured against specific perils by either being the holder of an insurance policy or by otherwise being covered.

Insurer

An insurer is the insurance company or the party that agrees to compensate people, companies or other organizations for specific financial losses. In the case of health insurance, the insurer is the party that agrees to cover some or all of the costs for covered health care services in exchange for a premium.
A

ACA-Compliant Coverage

Also called Obamacare plans, these are health insurance policies that meet all the coverage requirements laid out in the 2010 Affordable Care Act. This sweeping health reform law set new standards for insurance to better protect consumers. All ACA plans must offer essential health benefits, cover preexisting conditions, have no annual/lifetime dollar limits, and meet other requirements. This improved-quality coverage comes with an individual mandate to have insurance or face a tax penalty.

Accident Insurance

Supplemental insurance that covers expenses if you suffer an unexpected injury from an accident, such as broken bones from a bike crash, concussions on the basketball court, burns from a cooking mishap, and more. Accident insurance helps cover costly medical bills, ambulance fees, or unpaid time off work to recover that your regular medical insurance may not address.

Accountable Care Organization

These are healthcare teams that work together to provide coordinated care, aiming to improve quality and cut costs by sharing responsibilities and rewards.

Actuary

These professionals use statistics and analytics to calculate risk and forecast future costs. Health insurance companies rely on actuaries to crunch the numbers on historical claims data and health trends to accurately predict future expenses. This guides pricing and ensures enough premium payment is collected upfront to cover upcoming medical bills that could randomly hit.

Admitting Privilege

This is an agreement between doctors and hospitals that allows physicians to admit patients to that hospital for medical treatment or care.

Adjuster

An insurance claims adjuster is someone charged with evaluating an insurance claim to determine if and how much an insurance company must pay for the claim under review. An adjuster may be a representative of the insurance company or they may be independent. A claimant can also hire a public adjuster to do their own investigation on the claim, apart from the insurance company.

Advance Care Planning Consultations

These discussions take place between healthcare providers and individuals to determine preferences for future medical care. It includes conversations about end-of-life care wishes, ensuring that healthcare aligns with a person’s values and desires.

Advance Directive

An advance directive is a legal document allowing individuals to spell out their healthcare wishes. It may include instructions about life-sustaining treatments and appointing someone to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they cannot communicate.

Advance Insurance Premium Payment

This can be the first or binder payment of an insurance policy, or it may be a payment made before the scheduled first payment for a policy that the insurance company makes available to the policyholder, typically, for a discount or as part of a promotion.

Advance Premium Tax Credit

This government subsidy helps reduce the cost of health insurance premiums for eligible individuals or families with lower incomes.

Adverse Determination

With respect to health insurance, an adverse benefit determination refers to a situation where the insurance company denies a benefit, refuses payment for a service already received, or rescinds health coverage.

Adverse Selection

Adverse selection is a situation in which those who expect to need more healthcare services are the ones signing up for insurance. It can lead to imbalanced risk pools and potentially higher costs for insurers, affecting the stability of insurance plans.

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The ACA is a comprehensive healthcare reform law aimed to improve healthcare accessibility, affordability, and quality in the United States. Sometimes known as Obamacare, it introduced measures such as health insurance marketplaces, subsidies, and protections against insurance denials due to preexisting conditions.

Agent

In healthcare, an agent is a licensed individual who assists in finding and purchasing health insurance plans that match a person's needs. They help buyers navigate the various insurance options available in the market.

Allowed Amount

This is the maximum dollar amount a health insurer agrees to pay for any medical service, treatment, test, etc. Anything above this agreed rate will be billed to patients as "balance billing." Rate negotiations between health providers and insurance carriers establish allowed amounts for every covered service, from a 15-minute doctor visit to an organ transplant surgery.

American Rescue Plan

This legislative package provided economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. It included measures to expand and increase subsidies for health insurance plans under the ACA, reducing costs for many individuals and families.

Annual Limit

This refers to the maximum amount an insurance plan will pay for covered services in one year. The ACA prohibited most health insurance plans from imposing annual limits on essential health benefits to ensure adequate coverage for individuals.

Appeal

If a claim is denied by the insurance company, the insured person can request they take a second look and reconsider covering it. Submitting a formal appeal with evidence from your doctor allows you to contest your insurer's decision. Health plans must outline the appeals process, which starts with an internal review and can escalate to external third parties or a court. Appeals allow you to stand up for your right to fair coverage.

Application (App)

With respect to health insurance, an application is a form providing the insurer with certain information necessary to underwrite one’s health risks. It is typically attached to the insurance contract as part of the “entire contract.”

Association Health Plan

These plans allow small businesses or self-employed individuals to join together to purchase health insurance. It aims to give them access to more affordable coverage by leveraging the buying power of a larger group.

Authorized Representative

Someone who you choose to act on your behalf with the Marketplace, like a family member or other trusted person. Some authorized representatives may have legal authority to act on your behalf.
B

Balance Billing

This is the amount a healthcare provider charges a patient for the difference between what their insurance covers and the cost of the services rendered.

Benchmark Plan

This is a plan that is used as a reference point for determining the level of coverage and costs for health insurance offered in a particular area.

Beneficiary

Beneficiaries receive advantages or payments from an insurance policy, as in the case of a person covered by a health insurance plan. Beneficiaries can have any health insurance, including Medicare, Medicaid, or private coverage.

Benefit Cap

Some plans limit coverage for health treatments or services by capping the number of visits or dollar amount they'll shell out for them in a year. For example, an insured person may encounter a hard cutoff after 20 chiropractor sessions or 30 physical therapy appointments annually. Other caps could restrict how much the plan covers for high-cost infertility treatments. While benefit caps aim to prevent overutilization, knowing which critical services have limits can help buyers choose the best insurance policy.

Benefits Year

Unlike the calendar year, which starts fresh on January 1, a benefit year is based on the date when a plan began. This 12-month cycle serves as the basis for all the elements of a policy, from deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and covered drugs to in-network providers and more. It's essentially how insurance companies keep track of a person’s accumulating costs and enrollment specifics over time. Switching plans mid-year? Understanding the benefit year provided insight into upcoming changes to expect.

Book of Business

A book of business, in the context of insurance, is a database or “book” that lists all of the insurance policies the insurance company has written or completed.

Brand-Name Drugs

These are medications with exclusive patent-protected names, like Vyvanse for treating ADHD or Keytruda for different types of cancer. Despite high price tags, they advertise directly to patients because no generic equivalents exist yet to compete with them. Being the only one on the shelves gives brand-name drugs the leverage to charge more and maximize profits during the patent protection period. This contributes to rising insurance premiums. If you prefer brand names over generics, be prepared to pay hefty coinsurance costs or copays.

Broker

Brokers are like the matchmakers of insurance. They help buyers find and enroll in the right insurance plan to suit their needs.

Bronze Plan

This is one of the tiers of health insurance plans under the ACA and usually offers lower monthly premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs for healthcare services.

Bundled Plan

Bundled plans combine different types of insurance coverage, like health, dental, and vision, into one convenient plan.
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