How to Choose the Best Family Medical Insurance Plan

Whether you're an independent contractor, you don't receive insurance directly through your employer, or are considering switching providers, choosing a family medical insurance plan is one of the most important decisions you'll ever make for your family. Just as the nation is trying to do, you need to balance high-quality, worry-free medical care with trying to tamp down medical costs that are spiraling out of control. Rarely is there a silver bullet, but some plans are better than others and different families have different health insurance needs. Here's what you need to know to choose the best family medical insurance plan possible.

Common Family Medical Insurance Plans

  • Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs): With PPO plans, you can choose any doctor or hospital you want, although co-payments are cheaper and paperwork is considerably less, if you stay within the network established by your PPO health provider. This type of family medical insurance plan is the most expensive overall, although specific premiums and co-pays vary. The biggest difference (other than cost) between PPO plans and other medical plans is the ability to make a "self-referral." Simply put, this means you don't have to see your primary physician before you visit a specialist for a particular medical problem, although it's still cheaper to choose a specialist within the health provider's network.

  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs): HMO medical plans have gotten a bad name over the years, some of it justified, some of it not. Needless to say, some HMOs are much better than others. These plans tend to be the cheapest and most comprehensive health insurance you can buy. The two big drawbacks with HMOs are that you must first see your primary physician to get a referral to see a specialist and, except in cases of emergency, you must stay within the health provider's network or pay 100% of the costs.

  • Point of Service Plans (POSs): As a middle ground between PPOs and HMOs in both cost and quality of service, POS plans are becoming more and more popular. You can still go out of network, if you choose, and, like a PPO plan, you will be responsible for more, but by no means, all of the cost. Generally speaking, you will also have to fill out your own paperwork and wait to be reimbursed, if you go out of network. Plus, like HMOs, there is no self-referral option that allows you to go straight to a specialist.

  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): This is an innovative way to create an affordable family medical insurance plan by buying high-deductible, major medical insurance and then using a dedicated, tax-free savings account for most routine medical expenses. You'll be able to choose any doctor or hospital you want and comparison-shop both costs and quality of service, giving you greater control over your medical care. That said, HSAs are usually best for healthy families that don't expect to need much medical care.

More Things to Consider when Choosing a Family Medical Insurance Plan

There are a number of specific factors that will play into which type of family medical insurance plan is right for your family, as well as particular policy adjustments within these plans. In most cases, you will need to decide if your preferred medical care will determine your health plan, or vice versa. If you already have a doctor you like, you should see what networks he or she is a part of. If you don't have a doctor, you might want to look for the best health plan you can find, then choose a doctor within that network.

Trying to balance premiums, co-pays, and the potential out-of-pocket expenses for any number of health plans almost always involves your family's health history and budgetary allowances. Family medical insurance plans are cheaper than individual plans, but you don't necessarily have to buy the same policy for every member. If you have one child with recurring medical expenses, a serious of chronic asthma, for example, most insurance companies will allow you to customize a plan for this child. On a similar note, if you have young children, for example, you're more likely to need doctor and even hospital visits, making HSAs impractical.

Family Health Insurance Quotes

Unless you have predetermined employer-based health insurance, to choose a plan you must have choices. The cardinal sin for choosing a family plan is to do so without looking at several different family health insurance quotes. By using NetQuote and filling out a brief online form, you'll be instantaneously matched to health providers that offer coverage in your area. This will allow you to review family health insurance quotes and consider different policy choices from the comfort of your own home. Whether you're shopping for family medical insurance for the first time or want to see what other options are out there, you can find out with just a few minutes of your time.