Health insurance in the United States can be obtained privately or publicly. Private health plans are bought individually or coverage can be extended through an employer-sponsored plan. Public health care plans are entitlement programs funded by the federal and state governments.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 201 million people had private health insurance in 2008, which was down from 202 million in 2007. During the same time period, 87.4 million people were covered under a government-sponsored health plan in 2008, up from 83 million in 2007.
Indemnity health and managed health care plans are the two private health plans available. Indemnity health is a fee-for-service plan where members can visit any doctor of their choice. Managed health care plans keeps health-care costs low by coordinating member's services within a contracted group of doctors.
There are two government-sponsored health plans in the United States: Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is entitled to individual 65 years of age or older while Medicaid can be obtained by individuals and families who have certain medical conditions and/or meet income guidelines.
Insurers of private health plans charge premiums to their policy owners while Medicaid and Medicare Part A do not. Medicare Part B charges premiums to its members.
While group plans such as Medicare, Medicaid and employer-sponsored health plans must include all eligible applicants regardless of their health condition, those applying for individually owned private health plans may be denied coverage if the insurer considers the risk to be too high, as of April 2010.