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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Health Insurance Basics

What Types of Health Insurance Plans Does Independence Blue Cross Offer?

We offer three types of health plans: HMO, PPO, and EPO.

With an HMO, you choose a primary care physician (PCP) who coordinates your care through in-network doctors and hospitals. When visiting a specialist or receiving care, a referral from your PCP is often required for the services to be covered. You do not have the option to see out-of-network providers when you have an HMO.

If you want the option to manage your own care without referrals, then a PPO may be right for you. With a PPO, members can receive care from any provider, either in or out of network, without a referral.

EPO plans fall somewhere in between — they offer in-network coverage only, but don’t require you to select a PCP or get referrals.

What Is a Premium?

A health insurance premium is the amount of money you pay each month to your health insurance company for covered health care services.

The amount of your premium depends on the health plan itself. Typically, the lower the premium, the more you might pay out of pocket when receiving care. The higher the premium, the less you might pay out of pocket when receiving care.

A premium is separate from the deductible, copayments, and coinsurance amounts you pay when you use your benefits to receive covered services.

Use this chart to understand how an insurance premium works:

Monthly premium

$

$$$

Cost when you get care

$$$

$

Good option if you

don’t plan to use a lot of health care services

plan to use a lot of health care services

Scroll or swipe to reveal all table data.

What Is a Copay?

A copayment, or copay, is the fee you pay when you see a doctor or get other services. you may pay a copay of $30 to see a doctor or $550 when you go to the emergency room.

What Is Coinsurance?

The percentage you pay for some covered services. If your coinsurance is 20 percent, your health insurance company will pay 80 percent of the cost of covered services, and you will pay the remaining 20 percent. The amount you pay is typically not based on the full retail price of the service. It is based on a discounted rate negotiated by your insurance company with heath care providers like doctors and hospitals.

What Is a Deductible?

A deductible is the amount you pay each year before your health plan starts paying for covered services. For example, if your plan has a $1,000 deductible, you will need to pay the first $1,000 of the costs for the services you receive. Once you have paid this amount, your insurance will begin to pay a portion or all of your health care costs depending on the health plan.

If you choose a health plan with a high deductible, you may have a lower monthly premium. If your plan has a high monthly premium, your deductible amount may be lower. Learn more about deductibles.

How Does a Deductible Work For Families?

All of our health plans will have an embedded deductible for family coverage. In a plan with an embedded deductible, the family deductible and out-of-pocket maximum apply when more than one person is covered under a plan. A covered family member only needs to meet his or her individual deductible before the health plan begins to cover costs. Once the family deductible is met, then all covered family members will receive plan benefits.

What Does Out-of-Pocket Maximum Mean?

This is the maximum amount that you will have to pay under your plan. Any care for covered services you get after you meet your out-of-pocket maximum will be covered 100 percent. The out-of-pocket maximum varies by plan and can be found in your benefit brochure. The out-of-pocket maximum does not include premiums or charges for covered services that are not Essential Health Benefits (EHBs).

How Can I Save Money on Costs Related to My Health Insurance?

  • Use health care providers in your plan’s network.
    You can save money on health insurance costs by choosing health care providers within your health plan’s network. You can use the Find a Doctor tool to find out if your current primary care physician (PCP), health care specialists, and facilities are in the network.
  • Choose generic prescription drugs.
    You can also make your health care more affordable by choosing generic prescription drugs over name-brand prescription drugs. Generic drugs offer the same benefits of name-brand drugs – but at a lower cost.
  • Take advantage of preventive care.
    You can save money and prevent some serious illnesses by actively maintaining your health and scheduling regular preventive care appointments. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) now requires health insurance plans to cover preventive care without charging a copayment or coinsurance, even if you have not yet met your plan’s annual deductible. View a full list of free preventive health services.
  • See if you are eligible for financial help.
    You may be eligible for financial assistance (also called a subsidy) to help pay for your health insurance. Use our health insurance subsidy calculator to see if you qualify for financial assistance.

You may also qualify for free or low-cost health insurance for uninsured children and low-cost health coverage for uninsured adults. View available low-income health plans offered by Independence Blue Cross to learn more.

What Is a Primary Care Physician (PCP)?

A PCP is the doctor you see for most of your health care needs. HMO plans require you to choose a PCP, who will refer you to a specialist when needed. PPOs do not require that you choose a primary care physician. To find a PCP, use our Find a Doctor tool.

Can I Change My Primary Care Physician (PCP) After I Have Chosen One?

Yes. Once you are a member, it’s easy to change your PCP. Simply login to ibxpress.com to make the change, or call 1-844-BLUE-4ME (or 1-844-258-3463, TTY: 711). PCP changes become effective on the first day of the following month.

What Is a Specialist?

A specialist provides medical care for certain conditions in addition to the treatment provided by your primary care physician (PCP). For example, you may need to see an allergist for allergies or an orthopedic surgeon for a knee injury. Under an HMO plan, you need to obtain a referral from your PCP to receive benefits for care provided by a specialist. Under our PPO plans, you never need a referral to see a specialist.

What Is a Referral?

If you have an HMO plan, your family doctor (or PCP) will need to write you a referral before you see other network providers, such as a dermatologist. No need to pick up a piece of paper, our referrals are done electronically, so in most cases you can get a referral simply by calling your PCP’s office.

What Does Precertification Mean?

This may also be called preapproval or pre-authorization. Basically, you may need additional approval from your health plan before you receive certain tests, procedures, or medications. It’s a way to make sure the services you’re getting are safe and effective. Learn more about preapproval/precertification requirements.

What Is Durable Medical Equipment?

Durable medical equipment includes, but is not limited to, the following: hospital beds, crutches, canes, wheelchairs, walkers, peripheral circulatory aids, cervical collars, traction equipment, physiotherapy equipment, oxygen equipment, and ostomy supplies. You should always check with both your provider and Independence Blue Cross to determine whether an item is considered to be durable medical equipment.

What Does In-Network Mean?

Your health care coverage is considered in-network when you use a provider who participates in our network of more than 46,000 doctors and 160 hospitals. For HMO plans, it’s the Keystone Health Plan East network. For PPO plans, it’s the Personal Choice® network which gives you access to see doctors in-network across the country, plus you have the option to visit doctors out-of-network at a higher cost. To see if a provider or hospital is considered in-network, use our Find a Doctor tool.

What Does Out-of-Network Mean?

Your health care coverage is considered out-of-network when you visit a doctor or hospital that does not participate in our network. With an HMO plan, you only have coverage for in-network providers, while PPO plans allow you the freedom to see both in- and out-of-network providers.1

What Is an Urgent Care Center?

Urgent care centers are stand-alone clinics where board-certified doctors treat illness or injury requiring immediate medical attention. You can use these centers when your doctor is not available immediately and your illness or injury is not life threatening, such as a cut requiring stitches or continual nausea. Care in an urgent care center will cost you less than the same care in a hospital emergency room. For conditions that feel life threatening, such as severe shortness of breath or chest pain, sudden or unexplained loss of consciousness, severe abdominal pain, or a cut or wound that won’t stop bleeding, seek the care of the closest emergency room. Find a participating urgent care center.

What Is a Retail Clinic?

A retail clinic is a space within a pharmacy or other retail store that is staffed by nurse practitioners. You can use these clinics when your doctor is not available and your injury or illness is minor, such as a sore throat, earache, or skin rash. Care at a retail clinic will cost you less than the same care in a hospital emergency room.

Please note that if you go to a retail clinic in a Walgreens or Rite Aid store, and your prescription coverage uses the Preferred Pharmacy Network, you will need to go to another pharmacy in order to have your prescription covered by your health plan. The Preferred Pharmacy Network, used by all Proactive, Silver, and Bronze plans, includes over 50,000 pharmacies, including most major chains and local pharmacies. CVS is part of the Preferred Pharmacy Network; Walgreens and Rite Aid are not. Find a participating retail clinic.

What Is an HSA Account?

An HSA, or health savings account, helps you save money for health expenses, tax-free. You don’t pay taxes on the money you put in, the money you take out if used for qualified medical expenses, or any money you earn on the account. The IRS determines what qualifies as a qualified medical expense, which includes your out-of-pocket costs (copays, deductibles, coinsurance) along with some services not covered by a health plan, such as LASIK surgery.

How Can I Find a Doctor?

The Find a Doctor tool allows you to search for doctors within the Independence Blue Cross network.

Is My Current Doctor In-Network?

When you search for a doctor, you will need to select the plan network. You will then be able to see which doctors are in and out-of-network for that plan.

Can I Choose Any Doctor?

If you have an HMO plan, you are only covered for doctors and hospitals within the HMO network. With a PPO plan, you are covered for doctors and hospitals both in- and out-of-network. If the doctor or hospital you choose is out-of-network, then you may have to pay a higher out-of-pocket cost for your health service.

1 Personal Choice Bronze Basic and Personal Choice Catastrophic plans do not have out-of-network coverage, except for emergency services.

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