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Supplemental health insurance has increased in importance as employers move toward providing catastrophic insurance only under the range of consumer-driven health plans. The intention of consumer-driven health plans is to pay non-catastrophic expenses outside of insurance.

In effect, the surge in individually purchased supplemental insurance indicates that the transition is not going smoothly. Employers have not adequately funded Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) as policymakers had previously hoped. Many believe that employers will continue this long term trend of "getting out of the health care business". Individual consumers usually do not have the financial resources to cope with the risks of everyday medical costs.

An typical household has, on average, $200 to $500 out-of-pocket medical bills yet budgets less than $100 per month for thee expenses. Supplemental health insurance helps even the cash flow through a budgeted premium bill and provides protection for costs that are greater than expected.

Supplemental health insurance is also known as "defined benefit insurance" because the maximum specific benefits are presented in dollars for various types of covered medical expenses. For example, a policy may provide $1,000 per day for hospitalization. In contrast, major medical polices cover a non-specific "ordinary and necessary medical expenses" up to the policy limit; typically $1 million or more.

The major medical coverage may actually be stronger, but is vague and subject to misinterpretation by doctors and consumers. This vague definition of benefits is the underlying reason for the numerous controversies that health insurance companies face today. Supplemental insurance largely avoids this debate.

This difference in defining benefits also tends to make supplemental insurance more predicable and stable in long term pricing.

The second major distinction is that supplemental insurance benefits are paid directly to the individual policyholder in addition to any other insurance benefits that are usually paid to the doctor or hospital.

Benefits payments do not need to be used only for medical expenses but are commonly used to offset income lost due to illness or injury. Unlike major medical insurance, supplemental plans do not use a subjugate claims; meaning that benefits are not reduced due to other coverage.

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The primary advantages of supplemental insurance are that it is: 1) easy to understand, 2) affordable, 3) stabile, and 4) benefits are paid in cash to be used at the policyholder's discretion.

The primary disadvantage is that it may leave consumers unprotected for larger catastrophic claims. The avoid this risk, combine supplemental insurance with another major medical policy.

The small tip of the day

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Take the time to note the care techniques for later use in prevention of various symptoms.