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What are the best health insurance companies?

Obamacare (also known as the Affordable Care Act) made it easier to for many Americans to qualify for health insurance – and to pay for it, if you qualify for subsidies.

But it didn’t make everything easier. For example: How can you tell which health insurance company is best for you?

This article will look at some common misconceptions about health insurance and health insurance companies in the Obamacare era, and provide you with some tips to find the right insurer for you.

Finding the best health insurance company

Obamacare has brought to the forefront the discussion many Americans have about health insurance and the companies that offer health insurance plans. However, one thing Obamacare has not done is made the process of understanding health insurance coverage, and the coverage that is best for you, any easier.

In fact, in many American’s minds it’s brought about additional confusion. Some misconceptions include the following:

Popular Obamacare misconceptions

  • “Obamacare abolished health insurance companies”

Some people believe this, but it’s not true. Obamacare is a nickname for the law known as the Affordable Care Act and not a replacement for the term “healthcare.”  It reformed the individual and family health insurance market in the US but did not abolish health insurance companies. Many different insurance companies offer “Obamacare” health insurance plans. In fact, all newly-sold major medical health insurance plans are now “Obamacare” plans, whether they’re called that by name or not.

  • “All health insurance companies are the same”

Obamacare created more consistency in the health insurance market by making all health plans cover a suite of 10 essential health benefits, no matter which insurer is offering the plan. That said, insurance company A might offer a very different set of plans vs insurance company B in your area, and they might have very different networks of medical providers, and different requirements when it comes to your out-of-pocket medical costs and monthly premiums.

  • “There’s no difference between the different plans offered by a health insurance company”

This is where it can get tricky and it’s important to understand the distinction here. In any given state, there may be 2-5 (or even more) different health insurance companies selling individual and family coverage in compliance with Obamacare. But each insurance company may offer up to dozens of different health insurance plans to choose from. Coverage between plans – even when they’re offered by the same health insurance company – can vary widely from one Obamacare plan to another. Though they all cover a common set of basic benefits, what you pay for that coverage and what you may need to pay from your own pocket toward medical care can vary a lot. Some plans may also come with special additional benefits, like discounted gym memberships, which are not required under Obamacare. That’s just one example of how insurance companies may vary the plans they offer.

  • “Some insurance companies are more likely to approve you for coverage, while others might deny you for no reason”

Before Obamacare it was possible to be denied coverage based on your medical history, and insurance companies had a lot of lee-way when it came to denying applications. But this is no longer true under Obamacare. You can no longer be denied coverage based on your medical history and you can no longer be charged more for coverage based on your medical history (though it’s possible to be charged more if you’re a smoker).

  • “Some health insurance companies will deny all your medical claims”

No health insurance plan is going to be required to cover ALL of the medical care you may choose to receive. Health insurance policies are contracts that define the kinds of care that are covered, and which aren’t. However, health insurance companies are prohibited by law from just willy-nilly denying all your medical claims. Under Obamacare, 80% of all health insurance premiums received by the insurance company must be used to pay for member medical care or improvements to the plan.

Picking the best health insurance company for you under Obamacare

Knowing the ins and outs of your health insurance coverage, and what is (or is not) offered by Obamacare can help make your selection of a health insurance company that much easier. Below are some additional tips to ensure the company you select is one you can feel confident will stand behind its coverage and provide you with peace of mind.

  • Research insurance companies with third-party authorities: If you want to know more about the health insurance companies offering Obamacare coverage in your area, here are some resources to gather more information:
    • AM Best Ratings – AM Best is an organization that rates the financial health of insurance companies – An AM Best rating of A or A+ means that a health insurance company is well positioned financially to be able to pay your medical bills.
    • Better Business Bureau rating. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) can provide you with information about all kinds of companies, including health insurance companies. If there’s one you’re unfamiliar with, look it up!
    • Your state’s Department of Insurance. Your state’s Department of Insurance or Office of the Insurance Commissioner can also potentially provide you with information about the health insurance companies that are operating in your state and their standing with government and regulatory bodies.
  • Ask friends and relatives how they like their insurance company: Some insurance companies have better reputations with consumers than others. Ask around, but be skeptical too. Is the information you’re getting outdated or biased? A friend or relative may have had a bad experience with one insurance company while a different friend may have had a great experience. Ask about payment of claims, whether all of their doctors are accepted by the plan and other important questions you have about your medical care.
  • Research online for more information: You can also read customer reviews and look up additional information about different insurers online. Doing an internet search on “heath insurance company reviews” or asking for reviews of a specific company will usually yield results. Is the insurance company a for-profit company or a non-profit company? Does it matter to you? That’s just one example of the kind of question you can answer through online research. Just remember to be cautious in weighing information you find online. Generally, those less satisfied are more likely to voice their dissatisfaction than those who have good experiences or are happy with their choice.

Choosing from among a variety of health insurance companies can be a very personal decision. Some people are very loyal to specific health insurance companies, while others don’t really care who they buy a health plan from. Deciding for yourself which is the “best” health insurance company many times has more to do with the type of plan coverage that they offer. There is a large amount of information available to you in researching your decision, but ultimately the choice is yours to make. Feeling confident that the health insurance company you have selected will meet all of your expectations for a health insurance plan is the best peace of mind.