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10 minutes to understanding your coverage

Decode the jargon — in a jiffy

It’s important to understand how your health insurance works. Yet, few of us take the time. If you’ve ever wished you could boil down your health insurance into a few simple terms, this list is for you.

Two minutes here ...

Don’t wait until you need your health insurance to understand it. Knowing these amounts up-front could save you time and confusion down the road.

  1. Coinsurance: Your share of the costs of a covered health care service, calculated as a percent (for example, 20 percent) of the allowed amount for the service. You pay coinsurance plus any deductibles you owe. For example, if your health plan’s allowed amount for an office visit is $100 and you’ve met your deductible, your coinsurance payment of 20 percent would be $20. The health plan pays the rest of the allowed amount. (See deductible and allowed amount.)
  2. Copayment: A fixed amount (for example, $15) you pay for a covered health care service, usually when you receive the service. The amount can vary by the type of covered health care received.
  3. Deductible: The amount you owe for health care services your plan covers before your health plan begins to pay. For example, if your deductible is $1,000, your plan won’t pay anything until you’ve met your $1,000 deductible. The deductible may not apply to all services.
  4. Out-of-pocket limit: The most you pay during a policy period (usually a year) before your health plan begins to pay 100 percent of the allowed amount. This limit never includes your premium, balance-billing amounts or charges for health care your health plan doesn’t cover.

Three more minutes here ...

Take it a few steps further to truly understand your medical bills:

  1. Allowed amount: Maximum amount that payment is based on for covered health care services. This may be called “eligible expense,” “payment allowance” or “negotiated rate.” If your provider charges more than the allowed amount, you may have to pay the difference. (See balance billing.)
  2. Balance billing: Balance billing occurs when a provider bills you for the difference between his or her charge and the allowed amount (the amount negotiated by your health insurer). For example, if the provider’s charge is $100 and the allowed amount is $70, the provider may bill you for the remaining $30. A preferred provider cannot balance bill you for covered services.
  3. Preauthorization: This is a decision by your health insurer or plan that a health care service, treatment plan, prescription drug or durable medical equipment is medically necessary. It sometimes is called prior authorization, prior approval or precertification. Your health plan may require preauthorization for certain services before you receive them, except in an emergency. Preauthorization isn’t a promise your health plan will cover the cost.
  4. Preferred provider: A provider who has a contract with your health plan to provide services to you at a discount is referred to as a preferred provider. Check your policy to see if you can see all preferred providers or if your health plan has a “tiered” network. In a tiered network, you may pay more or less, depending on the provider. Your health plan may also have preferred providers who are “participating” providers. Participating providers also contract with your health plan, but the discount may not be as great, and you may have to pay more.

You’ve got 5 more minutes! = Time well spent

Don’t wait until after you’ve received a service to find out if it’s covered. Instead, take a few moments to get to know how your insurance benefits work. Once you’ve registered with myWellmark, you’ll have access to other helpful tools designed to simplify your health care experience:

  • No more wondering. Easily check your out-of-pocket maximums, copayments, deductibles and more.
  • No more guesswork. See reviews of providers including doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
  • No more lost information. Sign up to receive your Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) online instead of by mail. By getting your EOBs through myWellmark, you can easily track and manage your health care spending. With timely access to your records, you'll no longer have to wait for a bill from your doctor, and you can confirm your benefits paid as you expected.
  • No more digging. Your Wellmark ID card (and much, much more) is available on your smartphone or mobile device. Download the free Wellmark mobile app today!