January 9, 2009, Newsletter Issue #162: Comparing Preferred Provider Organizations

Tip of the Week

While preferred provider organizations (PPOs) definitely provide greater flexibility as far as where and when you can receive health care services, you still need to ask key questions when shopping for PPO insurance. First, you will need to know how many doctors participate because that defines your in-network pool of doctors to choose from. It is also a good idea to ask who the doctors are and where they are located. You can usually find a directory of participating providers on an insurer's Web site.

You'll want to find out which hospitals are in the PPO network and what options are available to you in the event you or a family member should require emergency care. Aside from the obvious questions about premium costs, make sure you ask about co-pays--specifically, what is the difference in out-of-pocket expense to you between using in-network and out-of-network providers.

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