How do I pick the most affordable health insurance plan?

Your guide to affordable health care.

Published September 11, 2019

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What you need to know

Picking the most affordable health insurance plan is a balancing act. You may think that you can pick the plan with the lowest monthly bill, but that doesn't represent your total cost of health care. Your total cost of care includes multiple categories of expenses:

  • Your monthly bill (called a "premium")
  • Your deductible (the amount you need to pay before your health insurance kicks in)
  • A copayment (a fixed amount you pay for a service or care)
  • A coinsurance percentage (a percentage amount you pay for a service or care)

Typically, plans with a low monthly premium tend to have higher deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance percentages. That means that while you have a low fixed monthly bill, your out-of-pocket expenses are higher when you actually use health services. The opposite is true of plans with high monthly premiums.

The most affordable health insurance plan for you depends on how frequently you use health care services. If you typically visit the doctor once or twice per year, a plan with a low monthly premium probably works best for you. If you visit the doctor multiple times per year or are managing a chronic condition, you'll probably want to consider a plan with a higher premium.

You can also save money by picking a plan with more rules about what doctors and hospitals you can visit. Health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, are a type of plan that only allow you see doctors within their network. You also have to get a referral from your primary care doctor in order to see a specialist. Because of these strict rules, HMO plans tend to be more affordable than their less strict counterparts, EPOs and PPOs.

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