Health insurance has been a hot topic in recent years, and the more industry experts talk about choosing the right plan and how to find a doctor in your network, the more overwhelming the process can seem.
Though health insurance can be confusing for many people, understanding networks is key to saving money on medical expenses. The following are reasons why networks are important, how to find a doctor and how to choose the best plan for you:
What if you need medical care when you're away from home? If you travel often or plan to do so in the near future, you will want a network large enough that you can find a doctor that takes your insurance, wherever you may be.
Think of Networks as Discounts
Insurance companies negotiate special rates with doctors, hospitals and other medical providers. When you visit physicians in these networks, you save yourself money.
If your doctor or hospital is not in your network, you will have to pay higher co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles, even in emergency situations.
Out-of-network providers can also bill you the difference between their usual fees and the amount your insurance company agrees to pay, which is known as balance billing. Balance billing by out-of-network providers can leave you owing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
How to Find the Right Network
When you select your health plan, you also select a network. This is why it is important to choose wisely based on both your current needs and future plans. Consider the following before you sign up:
Proximity: Will you be able to find a doctor within a reasonable driving distance and who takes your insurance? What about your local hospital or specialists you might need to see? If a plan doesn't offer a large network in your area, it probably isn't the best fit.
Loyalty: What about the doctors you already know and trust? Will you have to find new ones and start over? Having history and a good relationship with your physicians — especially your primary care provider — can be hugely beneficial to your health. If you would rather not leave your doctors, make sure they are in the network you're considering.
Reach: What if you need medical care when you're away from home? If you travel often or plan to do so in the near future, you will want a network large enough that you can find a doctor that takes your insurance, wherever you may be.
Most health insurance companies publish provider directories you can review before you choose your network, but it's always a good idea to check with your doctors' offices to ensure they are in network.
Learn more about how networks help you save.