Unexpectedly Intriguing!
29 January 2008

A lot of people talk about health insurance plans, but have you ever noticed that no one really knows what kind of health insurance people actually have?

We've been mining the data presented in the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2006 Annual Survey of Employer Health Benefits for another project, so we'd thought we'd extract the latest available data for U.S. employer-provided health insurance plans and present it in the following chart:

Distribution of US Employer Provided Health Insurance by Plan Type, 2006

For the sake of reference, here's a bit of discussion about each type of health insurance plan:

Conventional: The least common type of employer-provided insurance plan today, in which the employer covers 100% of health insurance plan costs. Called "conventional" since it used to be the dominant form of employer-provided health coverage in the U.S. as recently as two decades ago, before becoming far too expensive for employers to provide.

HMO: Health Maintenance Organization, which also includes Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPO). HMOs were the first serious alternative to "conventional" health care plans, but were soon overtaken by PPOs.

PPO: Preferred Provider Organization, the most common employer provided health insurance plan today, by a more than 3-to-1 margin to the next most common plan type, HMOs.

POS: Point Of Service health insurance plans are a kind of hybrid between PPOs and HMOs, and may sometimes be classified as an "enhanced-HMO." These plans combine the standard HMO access to a pre-approved network of health providers with the ability for individuals to select certain kinds of specialists outside the network without having to go through their Primary Care Provider (PCP) first. Not quite as popular as PPOs, which offer greater flexibility.

HDHP/SO: High Deductible Health Plan with Savings Option, such as a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) or a Health Savings Account (HSA). This is the newest available option for employer-provided health insurance which has only really existed since 2005. Even in that short time, HDHP/SO type plans have already surpassed "conventional" plans in popularity, even though the wide majority of U.S. employers have yet to adopt or offer the option to their employees.


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