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Health insurance covers some of or all the cost of treating an insured person's illnesses or injuries. In some cases, it pays for preventive care, such as annual physicals and diagnostic tests.
You may have health insurance as an employee benefit from your job or, if you qualify, through the federal government's Medicare or Medicaid programs.
You may also buy individual health insurance directly from an insurance company or be eligible through a plan offered by a group to which you belong. As you do with other insurance contracts, you pay premiums to purchase coverage and the insurer pays some of or all your healthcare costs, based on the terms of your contract.
Some health insurance requires that you meet an annual deductible before the insurer begins to pay. There may also be coinsurance, which is your share, on a percentage basis, of each bill, or a copayment, which is a fixed dollar amount, for each visit.
Health insurance varies significantly from plan to plan and contract to contract. Generally, most plans cover hospitalization, doctors' visits, and other skilled care. Some plans also cover some combination of prescription drugs, rehabilitation, dental care, and innovative therapies or complementary forms of treatment for serious illnesses.