Private Health Insurance Companies

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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In the U.S., private health insurance companies are the dominant players across the health care landscape. While public assistance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are widely available, they are only options for those 65 years of age or older or those with disabilities. Ultimately, the benefits you receive through such a system have already been subsidized--by you. That is to say, deductions made from your own paychecks fund these public health programs.

In countries such as Canada, a public single-payer system covers all citizens equally--at least in philosophy. At the same time, many Canadians opt to have their procedures and surgeries in the U.S. where the care is often better and the choices more extensive. For all those Americans who rail against the health care system in this country, there are clearly benefits to such a system, just as are there for any privatized (and hence competitive) industry.

How Private Plans Work

More often than not, individuals receive their private coverage through their employers, who participate in group plans. By purchasing such plans in bulk, employers are able to save enormously on the cost of marginal coverage, then sell that coverage as an extra inducement to come and work for them. Usually, employees who agree to enroll must still make weekly or bi-monthly contributions to their plan just to stay eligible.

Those who do enroll, however, can receive excellent benefits from their private insurers. While a handful of companies offer little more than basic coverage, many extend their benefits to include vision and dental care, prescription drugs, psychological and psychiatric coverage, and occupational therapy. Under a first-rate plan, you'll rarely if ever see a bill. Less-comprehensive plans, by contrast, may require members to pay for services rendered and then submit reimbursement requests, which, while less than ideal, is still better than having no coverage at all.

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