What are PPO, HDHP, and HMO health insurance plans and how do they differ?

Preferred provider organization (PPO), high-deductible health plan (HDHP), and health maintenance organization (HMO) are the most common types of health insurance plans available today.

PPO plans are the most popular, making up more than 50% of employer-sponsored health plans. These plans provide a greater degree of flexibility than others, but also come with higher premiums. Enrollees in a PPO plan do not need referrals to receive care from a specialist and are also able to receive care from out-of-network providers, though this will cost more than seeing an in-network provider.

High-deductible health plans are the second most common, making up about 30% of employer-sponsored health plans. These plans have lower premiums than PPOs, but also feature higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Many HDHP plans will come with a Health Savings Account or Health Reimbursement arrangement to help enrollees save money for healthcare-related costs.

Health maintenance organization plans have lower premiums than PPOs, but do not offer the same kind of flexibility. Under an HMO plan, enrollees must receive a referral from their primary care provider in order to see a specialist, and they cannot receive care from out-of-network providers.

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