Glossary of Health Insurance Terms


Affordable Care Act: The comprehensive health care reform law enacted in March 2010. The law was enacted in two parts: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010 and was amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act on March 30, 2010. The name “Affordable Care Act” is used to refer to the final, amended version of the law.

Advanced Premium Tax Credit
also known as, Healthcare Subsidy

The Affordable Care Act provides a new tax credit to help you afford health coverage purchased through the Marketplace. Advance payments of the tax credit can be used right away to lower your monthly premium costs. If you qualify, you may choose how much advance credit payments to apply to your premiums each month, up to a maximum amount. If the amount of advance credit payments you get for the year is less than the tax credit you're due, you'll get the difference as a refundable credit when you file your federal income tax return. If your advance payments for the year are more than the amount of your credit, you must repay the excess advance payments with your tax return. Also called premium tax credit.

Catastrophic Health Plan

Health plans that meet all of the requirements applicable to other Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) but that don't cover any benefits other than 3 primary care visits per year before the plan's deductible is met. The premium amount you pay each month for health care is generally lower than for other QHPs, but the out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance are generally higher. To qualify for a catastrophic plan, you must be under 30 years old OR get a "hardship exemption" because the Marketplace determined that you’re unable to afford health coverage.


Children's Health Insurance Program: Insurance program jointly funded by state and federal government that provides health coverage to low-income children and, in some states, pregnant women in families who earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford to purchase private health insurance coverage.


Your share of the costs of a covered health care service, calculated as a percent (for example, 20%) of the allowed amount for the service. You pay coinsurance plus any deductibles you owe. For example, if the health insurance or plan’s allowed amount for an office visit is $100 and you’ve met your deductible, your coinsurance payment of 20% would be $20. The health insurance or plan pays the rest of the allowed amount.


A fixed amount (for example, $15) you pay for a covered health care service, usually when you get the service. The amount can vary by the type of covered health care service.


A Federal law that may allow you to temporarily keep health coverage after your employment ends, you lose coverage as a dependent of the covered employee, or another qualifying event. If you elect COBRA coverage, you pay 100% of the premiums, including the share the employer used to pay, plus a small administrative fee.

Cost Sharing

The share of costs covered by your insurance that you pay out of your own pocket. This term generally includes deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments, or similar charges, but it doesn't include premiums, balance billing amounts for non-network providers, or the cost of non-covered services. Cost sharing in Medicaid and CHIP also includes premiums.


The amount you owe for health care services your health insurance or plan covers before your health insurance or plan begins to pay. For example, if your deductible is $1,000, your plan won’t pay anything until you’ve met your $1,000 deductible for covered health care services subject to the deductible. The deductible may not apply to all services.


Exclusive Provider Organization Plan:A managed care plan where services are covered only if you go to doctors, specialists, or hospitals in the plan’s network (except in an emergency).


Employer Shared Responsibility Payment: The Affordable Care Act requires certain employers with at least 50 full-time employees (or equivalents) to offer health insurance coverage to its full-time employees (and their dependents) that meets certain minimum standards set by the Affordable Care Act or to make a tax payment called the ESRP.


Federal Poverty Level: A measure of income level issued annually by the Department of Health and Human Services. Federal poverty levels are used to determine your eligibility for certain programs and benefits.


Flexible Spending Account: An arrangement you set up through your employer to pay for many of your out-of-pocket medical expenses with tax-free dollars. These expenses include insurance copayments and deductibles, and qualified prescription drugs, insulin and medical devices. You decide how much of your pre-tax wages you want taken out of your paycheck and put into an FSA. You don’t have to pay taxes on this money. Your employer’s plan sets a limit on the amount you can put into an FSA each year.

There is no carry-over of FSA funds. This means that FSA funds you don’t spend by the end of the plan year can’t be used for expenses in the next year. An exception is if your employer’s FSA plan permits you to use unused FSA funds for expenses incurred during a grace period of up to 2.5 months after the end of the FSA plan year.

(Note: Flexible Spending Accounts are sometimes called Flexible Spending Arrangements.)


High Deductible Health Plan: A plan that features higher deductibles than traditional insurance plans. High deductible health plans (HDHPs) can be combined with a health savings account or a health reimbursement arrangement to allow you to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses on a pre-tax basis.


Health Maintenance Organization: A type of health insurance plan that usually limits coverage to care from doctors who work for or contract with the HMO. It generally won't cover out-of-network care except in an emergency. An HMO may require you to live or work in its service area to be eligible for coverage. HMOs often provide integrated care and focus on prevention and wellness.


Health Savings Account: A medical savings account available to taxpayers who are enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan. The funds contributed to the account aren't subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit.

Funds must be used to pay for qualified medical expenses. Unlike a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), funds roll over year to year if you don't spend them.

In Network Coinsurance

The percent (for example, 20%) you pay of the allowed amount for covered health care services to providers who contract with your health insurance or plan. In-network coinsurance usually costs you less than out-of-network coinsurance.

In Network Copay

A fixed amount (for example, $15) you pay for covered health care services to providers who contract with your health insurance or plan. In-network copayments usually are less than out-of-network copayments.


Modified Adjusted Gross Income: The figure used to determine eligibility for lower costs in the Marketplace and for Medicaid and CHIP. Generally, modified adjusted gross income is your adjusted gross income plus any tax-exempt Social Security, interest, or foreign income you have.


A state-administered health insurance program for low-income families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with disabilities, and in some states, other adults. The Federal government provides a portion of the funding for Medicaid and sets guidelines for the program. States also have choices in how they design their program, so Medicaid varies state by state and may have a different name in your state.


A Federal health insurance program for people who are age 65 or older and certain younger people with disabilities. It also covers people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD).

Out of Pocket Costs

Your expenses for medical care that aren't reimbursed by insurance. Out-of-pocket costs include deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments for covered services plus all costs for services that aren't covered.

Out Of Pocket Maximum/Limit

The most you pay during a policy period (usually a year) before your health insurance or plan begins to pay 100% of the allowed amount. This limit never includes your premium, balance-billed charges, or health care your health insurance or plan doesn’t cover. Some health insurance or plans don’t count your copayments, deductibles, coinsurance payments, out-of-network payments, or other expenses toward this limit. In Medicaid and CHIP, the limit includes premiums. The maximum out-of-pocket costs for any Marketplace plan for 2014 are $6,350 for an individual plan and $12,700 for a family plan.


Point of Service Plan: A type of plan in which you pay less if you use doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers that belong to the plan’s network. POS plans also require you to get a referral from your primary care doctor in order to see a specialist.


Preferred Provider Organization: A type of health plan that contracts with medical providers, such as hospitals and doctors, to create a network of participating providers. You pay less if you use providers that belong to the plan’s network. You can use doctors, hospitals, and providers outside of the network for an additional cost.


The amount that must be paid for your health insurance or plan. You and/or your employer usually pay it monthly, quarterly or yearly.


State Health Insurance Assistance Program: A state program that gets funding from the federal government to provide free local health coverage counseling to people with Medicare.


Supplemental Security Income: A monthly benefit paid by Social Security to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or 65 or older. SSI benefits aren't the same as Social Security retirement or disability benefits.