Glossary of Health Care Terms
Health insurance is full of terms you may not know. To help you better understand health insurance, here’s a list of the most commonly used health care terms and definitions.
A comprehensive law passed in 2010, aimed at reforming America's health care system to improve access and affordability for more Americans.
The maximum amount a health care plan will reimburse a doctor or hospital for a given service.
The amount you are required to pay annually before reimbursement by your health care benefits plan begins.
The deductible requirement does not apply to preventive services.
An insurance plan may limit the dollar amount it will pay during one year for a certain treatment or service, or for all benefits provided in a year.
The health care items or services covered by an insurance plan. Your insurance plan may sometimes be referred to as a "benefit package."
The health insurance exchange will include a catastrophic plan option. Catastrophic plans have lower premiums, but begin to pay only after you've first paid a certain amount for covered services, or just cover more expensive levels of care, like hospitalizations. Catastrophic plans are an option to consider for young adults and people for whom coverage would otherwise be unaffordable.
A form you or your doctor fill out and submit to your health care benefits plan for payment.
An itemized bill for services provided to a member.
This stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. This federal act requires group health care plans to allow employees and covered dependents to continue their group coverage for a stated period of time following a qualifying event that causes the loss of group health coverage. Qualifying events include reduced work hours, termination of employment, a child becoming an over-aged dependent, Medicare eligibility, death or divorce of a covered employee.
The percentage of the costs of a covered health care service or prescription drug you pay after you've paid your deductible. Remember, you pay 100 percent of the full allowed amount until you meet your deductible.
A hospital that has contracted with a particular health care plan to provide hospital services to members of that plan.
The set dollar amount you pay for a covered health care service at the time you receive care or when you pick up a prescription drug.
A discount that lowers the amount you have to pay out-of-pocket for deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. You can get this discount if your income is below a certain level and you choose an insurance plan from the Silver plan category. If you're a member of a federally recognized tribe, you may qualify for additional cost-sharing benefits.
The eligible person enrolled in the health care benefits plan and any enrolled eligible family members.
A service that is covered according to the terms in your health care benefits plan.
The amount you pay for most covered services before your health plan starts to pay. The deductible resets at the beginning of the calendar year or when you enroll in a new plan. Some covered services may have a per-occurrence deductible.
An eligible person, other than the member (generally a spouse or child), who has health care benefits under the member's policy.
A list of preferred drugs chosen by a panel of doctors and pharmacists. Both brand and generic medications are included on the formulary.
The date your coverage begins. Please note: The effective date can also represent the date a change in your coverage takes effect. If you have questions, call the number on the back of your ID card.
Services provided for the initial outpatient treatment of an acute medical condition, usually in a hospital setting. Most health care plans have specific guidelines to define emergency medical care.
Starting in 2015, if an employer with at least 50 full-time equivalent employees doesn't provide affordable health insurance and an employee uses a tax credit to help pay for insurance through a Health Insurance Marketplace, the employer must pay a fee to help cover the cost of tax credits.
Some benefits will be included in every insurance plan. Beginning in 2014, most insurance plans you can choose from — whether you buy on the Health Insurance Marketplace or go directly to the insurance company of your choice — will include many benefits that are meant to make sure basic health concerns are covered.
Specific medical conditions or circumstances that are not covered under a health care plan.
An EOB is created after a claim payment has been processed by your health care plan. It explains the actions taken on a claim such as the amount that will be paid, the benefit available, discounts, reasons for denying payment and the claims appeal process. EOBs are available both as a paper copy and online. Understanding Your Explanation of Benefits
Health care coverage for a primary policyholder (called a "subscriber") and his or her spouse and any eligible dependents.
A level of income issued annually by the Department of Health and Human Services – used to determine eligibility for certain programs and benefits. FPL will be used to determine the amount of tax credit you qualify for to offset the cost of purchasing health insurance.
A prescription drug that is the generic equivalent of a brand name drug listed on your health plan's formulary and costs less than the brand name drug.
A prescription drug which is the generic equivalent of a drug listed on your health plan's formulary.
A health plan that was in place when the new health care law was passed into law. A grandfathered plan is exempt from some requirements of the new law. The grandfather rule enables businesses and families to keep the plan they have, if they wish to.
A group of people covered under the same health care plan and identified by their relation to the same employer or organization.
A requirement under the Affordable Care Act that health plans must permit you to enroll in some form of insurance coverage regardless of health status, age, gender or other factors.
The Health Insurance Marketplace, or Health Insurance Exchange, is a federal government website where you can shop, compare and buy plans offered by participating health insurance companies in your area. You can access the Marketplace via healthcare.gov , through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois or by phone.
An organization that provides health care coverage to its members through a network of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.
With a Health Savings Account, or HSA, you set aside money before taxes. When you visit a doctor or go to a hospital, you can pay for qualified expenses from your HSA. Only certain plans meet the high deductible amounts needed for you to be able to use your HSA.
Plans that provide coverage if you have a serious health condition that prevents you from getting private insurance. The new law established the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. Some states also have their own high risk pool plan.
A federal law that outlines the rules and requirements employer-sponsored group insurance plans, insurance companies and managed care organizations must follow to provide health care insurance coverage for individuals and groups.
Health care coverage for an individual with no covered dependents. Also knows as individual coverage.
Services provided by a physician or other health care provider with a contractual agreement with the insurance company and paid at a higher benefit level.
Services provided when a member is registered as a bed patient and is treated as such in a health care facility such as a hospital.
The person who a contract holder (an employer or insurer) has agreed to provide coverage for, often referred to as a member/subscriber.
A cap on the total lifetime benefits you may get from your insurance company for certain conditions. A health plan may have a total lifetime dollar limit on benefits (like a $1 million lifetime cap) or limits on specific benefits (like a $200,000 lifetime cap on organ transplants or one gastric bypass per lifetime), or a combination of the two. After a lifetime limit is reached, the insurance plan will no longer pay for covered services. Under the health care law, lifetime limits are no longer allowed on essential health benefits, such as emergency services and hospital stays.
A joint federal and state funded program that provides health care coverage for low-income children and families, and for certain aged and disabled individuals.
A licensed health care facility, program, agency, doctor or health professional that contracts with a health plan to deliver health care services to plan members.
The federal program established to provide health care coverage for eligible senior citizens and certain eligible disabled persons under age 65.
The person to whom health care coverage has been extended by the policyholder (generally their employer) or any of their covered family members. Sometimes referred to as the insured or insured person.
The type of health coverage an individual needs to maintain throughout the year in order to meet the individual responsibility requirement under the Affordable Care Act. Health plans that are considered MEC include individual and family plans bought through the Health Insurance Marketplace; qualified health plans bought directly through an insurance company, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois; job-based coverage; Medicare; Medicaid; and certain other coverage. If you have minimum essential coverage throughout the year, you don’t have to pay the tax penalty for being uninsured.
The group of doctors, hospitals and other health care professionals that a managed care plan has contracted with to deliver medical services to its members.
A hospital that has not contracted with a particular health care plan to provide hospital services to members in that plan.
A health insurance plan that meets the minimum essential coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. These plans are offered through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois or a health insurance agent. These plans are not offered on the Health Insurance Marketplace and are not eligible for the premium tax credit. If you qualify for a premium tax credit and want to use it, you must enroll in an on-exchange plan.
A health insurance plan that meets the minimum essential coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. On-exchange plans are offered through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois; on Get Covered Illinois, the Official Health Marketplace; or through a health insurance agent. If you qualify for a premium tax credit, you must enroll in an on-exchange plan in order to use it.
The period of time set up to allow you to choose from available health insurance plans, usually once a year.
Services you receive are considered out of network when you use a doctor or other health care provider that does not have a contract with your health plan. When you go to an out-of-network provider, benefits may not be covered, or may be covered at a lower level. You may be responsible for some or all of the bill from your doctor or hospital when you use out-of-network providers.
The most you have to pay for covered services in a plan year. After you spend this amount on deductibles, copays and coinsurance, your health plan pays 100 percent of the costs of covered benefits. The out-of-pocket maximum doesn't include your monthly premium payments or anything you spend for services your plan doesn't cover.
Treatment that is provided to a patient who is able to return home after care without an overnight stay in a hospital or other inpatient facility.
A health care plan that supplies services at a higher level of benefits when members use contracted health care providers. PPOs also provide coverage for services rendered by health care providers who are not part of the PPO network, however the plan member generally shares a greater portion of the cost for such services.
A separate, or third-party, company that handles your health plan’s pharmacy benefit. A PBM processes and pays for your prescription drug claims based on the terms of your pharmacy benefit.
The process by which members or their primary care physicians (PCP) notify the health plan in advance of treatment plans, such as a hospital admission or a complex diagnostic test. Also called pre-notification.
A condition, disability or illness that you have been treated for before applying for new health coverage.
The process by which a plan member or their doctor notifies the plan, before the member undergoes a course of care, such as a hospital admission or a complex diagnostic test. Also called pre-authorization.
The ongoing amount that must be paid for your health insurance or plan. You and/or your employer usually pay it monthly, quarterly or yearly. The premium may not be the only amount you pay for insurance coverage. Typically, you will also have a co-payment or deductible amount in addition to your premium.
Based on your family size and income, you may qualify for a tax credit. Unlike tax credits you claim when you file your taxes, these tax credits can be used right away to lower your monthly premium costs. Sometimes called advanced premium tax credit (APTC), or tax credit. Use our premium tax credit estimator to see if you qualify.
Prescription drugs must be ordered by a doctor and obtained at a pharmacy. They are reviewed and approved through a formal process set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
A list of commonly prescribed drugs (also known as a drug formulary). Not all drugs listed in a plan's prescription drug list are automatically covered under that plan.
A prescription drug list has different levels of payment coverage, called “tiers." These tiers determine how much you will pay out of pocket for your prescription drug, based on the terms of your pharmacy benefit and whether the drug is covered on the drug list. Drugs in a lower tier will often cost less than drugs in a higher tier.
Routine health care that includes screenings, check-ups, and patient counseling to prevent illnesses, disease, or other health problems. See a full list of covered Preventive Services .
The physician you choose to be your primary source for medical care. Your PCP coordinates all your medical care, including hospital admissions and referrals to specialists. Not all health plans require a PCP.
A licensed health care facility, program, agency, doctor or health professional that delivers health care services.
An insurance plan that is certified by the Health Insurance Marketplace, provides essential health benefits, follows established limits on cost-sharing (deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket amounts) and meets other requirements.
As applicable to HMO or point of service (POS) coverage, a written authorization from a member's primary care physician (PCP) to receive care from a different contracted doctor, specialist or facility.
A health care professional whose practice is limited to a certain branch of medicine, including specific procedures, age categories of patients, specific body systems or certain types of diseases.
A time outside of the open enrollment period during which you can sign up for a health insurance plan. You generally qualify for a special enrollment period of 60 days following certain life events that changes your family status (for example, marriage or birth of a child) or loss of other health coverage.
A prescription drug used to treat complex health conditions. These drugs are usually given as a shot, but may be added to the skin or taken by mouth. Also, they may:
- Require following a specific treatment plan
- Have special handling or storage needs
- Not be sold in retail pharmacies
Conditions like hepatitis C, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis are treated with specialty drugs.
Based on your family size and income, you may qualify for a subsidy, also known as premium tax credit. Unlike tax credits you claim when you file your taxes, these tax credits can be used right away to lower your monthly premium bill. Use our premium tax credit estimator to see if you qualify.
The way we review the type and amount of care you're getting. This involves looking at the setting for your care and its medical necessity. Examples may use prior authorization, case management, accompanying reviews or proper discharge planning.