Guide To Understanding The Alphabet Soup Of US Health Care Options

If you are often confused about all of the acronyms and similar terms used in health care today, then you are certainly not alone! Understanding the difference between Medicare and Medicaid is always a challenge, just as knowing what COBRA, PPO, etc, really mean.

Here is a list of the most common terms and acronyms used to describe the various types of health care in the US to help with your confusion:


If you leave your employment, then under Federal law you are eligible for COBRA insurance coverage. COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. COBRA coverage is typically expensive and it covers you for a limited time, typically 18 months.


Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) have a smaller network of doctors and other providers that you can visit, but in exchange the cost of HMO coverage is typically much less than COBRA or PPO coverage.


Medicaid health care coverage is available for citizens who have a low income and very little assets. The qualification levels for Medicaid depend on the state in which you live. Medicaid is also used for indigent elderly people who need to live in a skilled nursing facility (SNF). Medicaid covers all of the costs for SNF care after someone has exhausted all of their estate's financial resources.


Medicare is the health care option for those who are over the age of 65 or who have become permanently disabled at any age. If you are approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a disability, then two years later you become eligible for Medicare. Otherwise, you will qualify for coverage on your 65th birthday. Many people also purchase supplemental insurance to cover things like prescription drugs that Medicare does not cover.


A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) is a type of health insurance that allows you the freedom to make appointments with any physician you choose. PPOs have networks of doctors who are "in network" who will charge you less for care because of their agreement with the insurance company. You can go outside of the network for care, and the charges are partially covered by this type of insurance.


Now that you have a clearer understanding of your various health care options, you can obtain the health insurance that is right for your own personal situation. If you need additional assistance in choosing a health plan for your family, then you should speak with a licensed insurance broker in your area (such as Meekins Insurance Services).