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Who provides health insurance?

Health insurance can come from a number of sources, including:

  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which is not technically insurance, but a cooperative of doctors and hospitals that offer health care protection on a service-incurred basis. They are becoming more selective in terms of who they will insure.
  • Private, Commercial Insurance Plans like Prudential, State Farm, etc.
  • The Federal Government, through Medicare for people over 65 or who are permanently disabled; Medicaid, which pays some expenses for the poor and is jointly administered with state governments; and the Veterans Administration, which gives medical care to veterans of military service.
  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), a growing form of "insurance." HMOs don't provide health insurance, they provide health care. Members of HMOs pay a monthly fee and receive health care services in a managed system. HMOs are available for groups and individuals. There is often no deductible, but usually a small copayment. They emphasize preventive care and are sometimes criticized for limiting the choice of doctors and giving doctors incentives to reduce care.
  • A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) is a network of health care providers who contract with an insurance company to provide services at a discount to the insured. If you go outside the network, you have higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • A Point-of-Service plan has some features of an HMO and some features of a PPO.




Brenda Procter, M.S., Consumer and Family Economics, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia













If you'd like to learn more about this and other personal finance topics, the University of Missouri offers 'Personal & Family Finance,' a correspondence course, through the Center for Distance and Independent Study (800-609-3727). Information about this course is available at





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Last update: Monday, July 21, 2008




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