Baylor Hospital, in Dallas, Texas, introduced the first pre-paid hospital insurance in 1929, offering to provide medical services to a group of Texas teachers for a premium of 50 cents a month. The plan worked on the principle of paying for the costs of care for a small group of sick individuals by spreading them out over a much larger pool. The concept caught on, and by the late 1930s, nearly 3 million Americans were enrolled in “Blue Cross” hospital plans.
There are other plans available year-round that are not individual major medical coverage. Most of these plans are not recommended as stand-alone coverage (with the exception of short-term plans, which can be adequate stand-alone coverage if you're healthy and you know that you need the coverage for only a short time; they are usually not at all adequate for longer-term coverage). These plans are not regulated by the Affordable Care Act, which means they can exclude pre-existing conditions, impose dollar caps on your coverage, and don't have to cover the ACA's essential health benefits. In most cases, these plans cannot really be compared with an employer-sponsored plan, since the coverage will be so much lower quality. If an insurance offer sounds too good to be true, read the fine print carefully. It may end up being a poor substitute for real health insurance, and you don't want to learn those details after you have a major claim.
No individual applying for health coverage through the individual marketplace will be discouraged from applying for benefits, turned down for coverage or charged more premium because of health status, medical condition, mental illness claims experience, medical history, genetic information or health disability. In addition, no individual will be denied coverage based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, personal appearance, political affiliation or source of income.
As mentioned above, the majority of Americans who have insurance obtain it through employer-sponsored, or group health insurance plans. The coverage has numerous advantages – among them cost (including the government income tax exemption for health benefits), ease of enrollment, and a wide range of plan options. (In addition to a health insurance plan, employees may have the option to purchase insurance for dental, life, short- and long-term disability.) Read here for more details about group health insurance plans.
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But it's also worth noting that if they keep the employer-sponsored plan for the whole family, the premiums will almost certainly be payroll deducted on the pre-tax basis. On the other hand, if they opt to buy an individual market plan, the premiums would only be tax deductible to the extent that they (along with other medical expenses) exceed 10 percent of the family's household income, and assuming that the family opts to itemize their tax deductions (increasingly rare now that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has greatly increased the standard deduction).
If the coverage available through your employer feels unaffordable, you can shop around online to see what's available. You may be able to find an individual market policy that will provide you with the coverage you need but is less expensive than the premium you pay at work. This is unlikely to be the case if your plan only covers yourself, since your employer is likely subsidizing a good chunk of the total premiums for the plan offered through your job. But some employer-sponsored plans require the employee to cover the full cost of adding family members, so it's possible that your family members could get a better deal with a separate policy.
Attention: This website is operated by HealthMarkets Insurance Agency and is not the Health Insurance Marketplace website. In offering this website, HealthMarkets Insurance Agency is required to comply with all applicable federal laws, including the standards established under 45 CFR 155.220(c) and (d) and standards established under 45 CFR 155.260 to protect the privacy and security of personally identifiable information. This website may not display all data on Qualified Health Plans being offered in your state through the Health Insurance Marketplace website. To see all available data on Qualified Health Plan options in your state, go to the Health Insurance Marketplace website at HealthCare.gov.
These plans meet all the requirements of the health care law, including covering pre-existing conditions, providing free preventive care, and not capping annual benefits. If you have one of these plans, you won’t have to pay the fee that people without coverage must pay through the 2018 plan year. (Note: Starting with the 2019 plan year (for which you’ll file taxes in April 2020), the fee no longer applies.)