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Glossary of Terms


Affordable Care Act

A new, comprehensive law passed in 2010, aimed at reforming America's health care system to improve access and affordability for more Americans.

allowable amount

The maximum amount a health care benefits plan will reimburse a doctor or hospital for a covered service.

annual deductible

The amount you are required to pay annually before reimbursement by your health care benefits plan begins.

annual limit

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.

annual out-of-pocket maximum

The maximum amount, per year, you are required to pay out of your own pocket for covered health care services after the deductible is met.



The health care items or services covered by an insurance plan. Your insurance plan may sometimes be referred to as a “benefit package.”


catastrophic plan

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.


An itemized bill for services that have been provided to a subscriber, a subscriber's spouse or dependents.

claim form

A form you or your doctor fill out and submit to your health care benefits plan for payment.


A federal act (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985) which 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 which causes the loss of group health coverage. Qualifying events include reduced work hours, termination of employment, a child becoming and over-aged dependent, Medicare eligibility, death or divorce of a covered employee.


A percentage of a covered service that you are responsible for paying or the percentage paid by your plan.

contracting hospital

A hospital that has contracted with a particular health care plan to provide hospital services to members of that plan.


A fixed dollar amount you are required to pay for covered services at the time you receive care.

covered person

The eligible person enrolled in the group health care benefits plan and any enrolled eligible family members.

covered service

A service which is covered according to the terms in your health care benefits plan.



A fixed amount of the eligible expenses you are required to pay before reimbursement by your health plan begins.


An eligible person, other than the member (generally a spouse or child), who has health care benefits under the member's policy.

drug formulary

A list of preferred drugs chosen by a panel of doctors and pharmacists. Both brand and generic medications are included on the formulary.


emergency medical care

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.

employer responsibility

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 Exchange, the employer must pay a fee to help cover the cost of tax credits.

essential health benefits

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 exchange 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 services that are not covered under a health care plan.

Explanation of Benefits (EOB)

The form sent to you after a claim has been processed by your health care plan. The EOB explains the actions taken on the claim such as the amount paid, the benefit available, reasons for denying payment and the claims appeal process.


family coverage

Health care coverage for a member and his or her eligible dependents.

Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

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.


generic drug

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.

grandfathered health plan

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.

guaranteed issue

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.


Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

An organization that provides health care coverage to its members through a network of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.

High Risk Pool Plan (State)

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. In 2014 when guaranteed issue goes into effect, many states may choose to no longer offer a high risk insurance pool plan.


A federal law which outlines certain 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; most recently amended to add privacy rules which became effective April 14, 2003.


individual health insurance plan

Health care coverage for an individual with no covered dependents.


Services provided or coordinated by your primary care physician (PCP) and paid at a higher benefit level.

individual mandate

Starting in 2014, you must be enrolled in a health insurance plan that meets basic minimum standards. If you aren’t, you may be required to pay a penalty on your income tax filing. You won't have to pay an assessment if you have very low income and coverage is unaffordable to you, or for other reasons including your religious beliefs. You can also apply for a waiver asking not to pay an assessment if you don't qualify automatically.

inpatient services

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.




lifetime limit

A cap on the total lifetime benefits you may get from your insurance company, either on all coverage or for a certain condition.  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 new health care law, lifetime limits are no longer allowed in most cases.



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.

medical group

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.

Medicare Part A

The federal program established to provide health care coverage for eligible beneficiaries. Medicare Part A provides basic hospital insurance coverage automatically for most eligible persons.

Medicare Part B

The federal program established to provide health care coverage for eligible beneficiaries. Medicare Part B provides benefits to cover the costs of doctors' services.

Medicare Part C

The federal program established to provide health care coverage for eligible beneficiaries. Medicare Part C (also known as Medicare+Choice) expands the list of different types of entities allowed to offer health plans to Medicare beneficiaries.


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 group of doctors, hospitals and other medical care professionals that a managed care plan has contracted with to deliver medical services to its members.

non-contracting hospital

A hospital that has not contracted with a particular health care plan to provide hospital services to members in that plan.


open enrollment period

The period of time set up to allow you to choose from available health insurance plans, usually once a year. The first open enrollment period for the new health insurance exchange begins in October 2013.


Services provided by doctors and hospitals who have not contracted with your health plan.

out-of-pocket maximum

The maximum amount you have to pay for expenses covered under your health care plan, after any deductible is met, during a defined benefit period.

outpatient services

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.


Participating Provider Option (PPO)

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.

pre-existing condition

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.


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.

prescription drugs

Drugs and medications that, by law, must be dispensed by a written prescription from a licensed doctor.

prescription drug list

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.

preventive services

Routine health care that includes screenings, check-ups, and patient counseling to prevent illnesses, disease, or other health problems.

primary care physician (PCP)

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.




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.


short-term insurance

Non-renewable temporary health insurance coverage ranging from 1-11 months. May cover many of the most costly health care services for you and your dependents. While short-term plans offer immediate basic health care coverage, they don’t meet minimum essential coverage required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result, you may have to pay a tax penalty.


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.

special enrollment period

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. If you don’t qualify for special enrollment, you can buy a short-term insurance plan to cover the gap in coverage until the next open enrollment period.

Stop-loss Limit

A specified dollar amount of covered services which are reimbursed at less than 100 percent of the allowable charge to or on behalf of a subscriber during a benefit period. When the stop-loss limit is reached, the level of benefits is increased as state in the member’s contract.








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