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How Does Double Coverage Health Insurance Work?

Affordable health insurance is increasingly difficult to procure. The effects of the recent changes to the laws that govern the American healthcare industry remain difficult to discern. At the very least, it's clear that the cost of healthcare won't be declining anytime soon.

By 2014, virtually all Americans will be required to carry health insurance. If you're lucky enough to have your own health insurance policy already, you probably have some questions about its cost structure. Health insurance can baffle even the most astute consumers.

Individual health insurance can be even more baffling when it involves multiple policies. "Double coverage" is a special situation that affects millions of Americans. It typically arises when two cohabitating domestic partners carry employer-sponsored insurance policies designed to cover both members of just such a domestic relationship. In other words, a husband and wife who each receive family health insurance coverage from their employers may find themselves in the enviable but confusing position of receiving health insurance coverage from two separate providers.

If you find yourself in a double-coverage situation, you'll need to keep several things in mind. First, the fact that you're covered by two health insurance plans doesn't mean that you can pick and choose the coverage that you wish to receive. Your health insurance choices will still be circumscribed by the protocols of your own provider. You'll need to designate your employer's health group as your "primary" insurance provider.

This designation ensures that your own provider will cover the bulk of your medical expenses. For instance, your provider will cover the cost of your primary-care visits, prescription medications and preventive screenings. They'll even pay for more invasive procedures like colonoscopies and prostate exams.

If you carried just a single group health insurance policy, you'd probably be held liable for some of the expenses associated with preventive procedures and prescription medications. Fortunately, your spouse's healthcare plan affords you an extra layer of protection that may all but eliminate your out-of-pocket costs for such things.

When you carry "double coverage," your primary health insurance coverage is supplemented by your spouse's plan. This plan becomes known as your "secondary" health insurance policy. If your primary insurer agrees to pay just 60 percent of the cost of a surgical procedure or preventive examination, your secondary policy will probably step in and pay the remaining 40 percent. Over the years, this arrangement may save you thousands of dollars.

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