Health Insurance 101: Unpacking Plans & Networks


Navigating the labyrinth of health insurance plans can be an overwhelming and daunting task for many people. It is important to understand the basics of health insurance and the different types of plans available in order to make an informed choice. Knowing how to compare plans and benefits, as well as how to choose the right network for you, are all key to finding the health insurance coverage that best suits your needs. In this article, we will cover Health Insurance 101 and unpack the ABCs of health insurance plans.

Understanding the Basics of Health Insurance

Health insurance is a form of coverage that pays for medical and surgical expenses that are incurred by the insured. They are designed to help cover the costs associated with a wide variety of estimates, required medications, and doctor’s visits. Health insurance is a contract between an insurance company and an individual, and it is important to have an understanding of the basics of health insurance before committing to a plan. First, you need to be familiar with the premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copays. Essentially, premiums are what you pay each month (or every few months) to maintain your health insurance coverage. Deductibles are the amount you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance is in effect and coinsurance is the percentage you’re required to pay after the deductible has been met. Lastly, copays are fixed costs that you must pay for a visit or prescription. It is also important to understand the scope of coverage that health insurance plans provide. Generally, they fall into two categories-major medical or basic plans. Major medical plans provide extensive coverage for hospital stays, surgeries, and specialized treatment. Basic plans offer a limited amount of coverage and are intended to cover more minor medical costs.

Exploring Different Types of Plans & Providers

There are a variety of types of health insurance plans to choose from. These plans include:

  • PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations): A type of health plan that contracts with some health care providers but allows plan members to choose any providers for covered services.
  • HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations): A type of health plan that insists on plan members using the services of designated doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers in exchange for lower co-payment costs.
  • POS (Point of Service Plans): A type of health plan that gives plan members the freedom to use any medical provider, but charges higher co-pays if the plan members go outside of the network.
  • HSA-eligible Plans (High Deductible Health Plans): A type of health plan that allows plan members to save pre-tax dollars in a Health Savings Account (HSA).
  • Federally Facilitated Exchange (FFE) or Marketplace Plans: Health plans available through, the health insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act.

Comparing Plan Costs & Benefits

Once you have a better understanding of the different types of plans available, you can begin to compare the cost and benefits. It is important to consider the following factors:

  • Premiums: How much you will pay each month/year for coverage.
  • Deductibles: The amount you must pay before the plan takes effect.
  • Coinsurance: The percentage of costs that are covered by the plan after deductibles are met.
  • Co-pays: The fixed cost you must pay for a visit or prescription.
  • Out of pocket (OOP) Maximums: The maximum amount you must pay during the plan year.
  • Prescription Coverage: Costs for prescription drugs that are covered by the plan.
  • Provider Access: The number of providers and the quality of the providers that accept your plan.

Compare different plans and providers side-by-side to find the best plan for your needs and budget.

Learn to Choose the Right Network for You

Health insurance networks are important for both cost and care considerations, so it is important to choose one that meets your needs. Consider whether the network offers services at a convenient location or if it offers a range of services that you might need in the future. It is also important to know if the network is in-network or out-of-network, as this will affect your costs. It is also important to research the quality of care the network provides. Some networks are more comprehensive and can offer more specialized services. Others offer only a limited amount of care and have fewer providers available.

Unpacking the ABC’s of Health Insurance Plans

Health InsuranceABCs are a simple way to compare different plans and better understand the ABC’s of health insurance. Health Insurance ABCs generally include:

  • A: A stands for the annual deductible and coinsurance.
  • B: B stands for the co-pay for office visits and other services.
  • C: C stands for the limits placed on the amount you have to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs.

It is important to understand these ABCs when looking for a plan that best suits your needs.


Making a decision about health insurance can be complex and a bit overwhelming. It is important to be aware of the basics of health insurance, the different types of plans and providers, how to compare their costs and benefits, and how to select the right network for you. By unpacking the ABCs of health insurance plans, you can make an informed decision and get the coverage you need to stay healthy.

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