Health coverage in America is confusing. From its earliest days, the American employer-based healthcare system has been full of confusing paperwork and policies that change when you switch jobs.
As an American, it’s important to know what your insurance will actually cover. Being in the dark could cost you dearly. Here are a few things that your current policy might not cover, along with tips for filling in the gaps.
Basics of US healthcare
The 2010 Affordable Care Act made changes to the old system, providing health care “exchanges” and mandating coverage. Then there is Medicare, a government-funded health insurance system for the elderly and some other Americans who qualify, and Medicaid, a government-funded health insurance system for those with limited financial means.
Even after you figure out how to get a policy, there’s more red tape and more fine print to worry about. You’ll have to pay a premium each month and a copay on certain services. You’ll have to know what a deductible is. And most importantly, some things will be covered, and others won’t be.
Healthcare when you’re traveling
Most of the time, you head to a doctor near your home or place of work. You get a check-up, you show them your insurance card, and perhaps you pay a copay — after that, you’re all set. Other times, you see doctors unexpectedly. You may have to go to a hospital near your home or work. But if your insurance has a good local network, you’ll be okay there too.
But what if you’re vacationing in Europe and break your leg? What if you get terribly ill in South America? What then? It won’t be in your network, and your health insurance policy will almost certainly not cover it. That could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
What you need to do is sign up for travel insurance to cover yourself while you’re abroad. Read unbiased travel insurance reviews, and choose a policy which keeps your mind at ease as you enjoy your vacation.
Some health insurance plans include dental care, but certainly not all of them. If your plan doesn’t include dental care, you could end up paying big bucks to keep your smile looking sharp. A simple teeth cleaning can run into the hundreds of dollars!
But skipping those cleanings is not a sensible option. Avoiding dental care now will just lead to bigger problems with your teeth, gums, and jaw later on in life. Those issues will be more expensive to fix, and they may also be a lot less enjoyable to deal with or to treat. You need to find a way to go to the dentist regularly without breaking the bank.
You could wait until the next open enrollment period and switch to a health insurance policy that covers dental work. Or you could get separate dental insurance, which is available on the open market. You pay a premium either way, but you save money on regular teeth cleanings and you’re protected from big bills if you chip a tooth or have a cavity.
Many health insurance policies cover eye care to an extent. But plenty of them don’t, or are limited to emergencies related to the eyes. To do something as simple as get an eye check-up or a new contact lens prescription, you could end up having to pay out of pocket.
It pays to check your policy for information on eye care. If you’re not sure what you’re looking at, give your insurance provider a call and figure things out. It’s a good idea to make sure that you have coverage, and to switch to a new policy in the next open enrollment period if you aren’t covered. Especially if you need corrective lenses, paying out of a pocket for eye care can be brutal.