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Kaiser Permanente Review

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PROS / The premiums are, on average, less expensive than those of other insurance agencies, especially for older people.

CONS / This service limits you to the Kaiser Permanente system of doctors and hospitals in eight states only.

 VERDICT / Kaiser Permanente covers eight states and has its own system of doctors and facilities. Its premiums and breadth of plans make it a strong option for health insurance.

Kaiser Permanente is a healthcare system in eight states and Washington, DC. It provides health insurance using its system of doctors and hospitals. It has some of the lowest rates and a breadth of choices compared to all the health insurance companies we tested, which earns it our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award. However, this insurance provider limits you to the Kaiser Permanente system, so while it's definitely worth examining the plans, you should also check out the reputation of Kaiser Permanente in your area. This is particularly important if you have special healthcare needs.

 

Selection of Plans

Because Kaiser Permanente has its own medical system of doctors, hospitals and specialists, you are limited to its system. It does not cover outside specialists, nor will Kaiser doctors refer you outside the network. Thus, it's important to examine the quality of care in your local Kaiser network, especially if you have particular medical need that requires the care of specialists. Nonetheless, we found the breadth of plan options to be about average of the health insurance companies we tested and above average for our hypothetical 35-year-old we used as our test case.

This health insurance agency covers eight states: California, Colorado, Virginia, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Georgia and Hawaii, plus the District of Columbia. This lack of coverage is a drawback if you have children who work or are attending college out of state but are still under your plan. If they are living outside the state, Kaiser Permanente may not cover their medical care unless they return to the state in which they were insured.

Nonetheless, if you or anyone on your plan travels abroad and has a medical emergency, you may be able to have it covered by Kaiser Permanente even if you are not near a designated hospital or medical center. You would contact member services to find a doctor and make arrangements. Not all medical insurance companies provide coverage outside the U.S., making this a good choice if you travel outside the country regularly.

Sample Premium Rates

The rates for Kaiser Permanente were some of the least expensive as found in our testing. For our tests, we examined policy options for single non-smokers ages 35, 45 and 55. We priced plans for each of these cases across five zip codes, and then averaged highest- and lowest-priced plans. The prices were less expensive across the board, but even more so for the 55-and-older crowd. Thus, this is a good choice to examine if you are older.

Naturally, how much your policy costs depends on multiple factors not examined in our case study. Therefore, we suggest selecting three or more insurance providers and obtaining a quote yourself. With all of the providers on our list, we were able to secure quotes in a matter of minutes, so the process is not difficult and certainly worth the money it could save you. Be sure to check for exceptions in coverage, such as specialists that you know you need that may not be covered by Kaiser's medical system. You will pay out-of-pocket for these services.

Enhancements

This health insurance company also offers some benefits to its members, such as health information and tips on its website and live classes at its many facilities. It's an advantage for those who are interested in learning more about taking control of their own health.

Within the eight states plus DC, Kaiser Permanente has 38 hospitals, 618 medical offices and outpatient facilities, and 17,425 physicians. You can find the closest facility or physician through the website. If you need translation assistance – because you are abroad, do not speak English or are deaf – this health insurance provider has trained interpreters who can help translate medical information into Spanish, Chinese or American Sign Language.

The website has FAQs and information about Kaiser, and you can switch it to Spanish. The site lists a toll-free number and live chat for questions about its policies. A general phone or email contact was not as easy to find on the main website, although you may be able to find it through your membership site. If you need TTY for hearing impaired calling, you can get that service.

You can access your health insurance account details, make appointments, order medications and access your medical records through the company's mobile app. This health insurance company has an app for both iPhone and Android systems.

Summary

Kaiser Permanente has a large system of doctors and medical facilities, but it is limited to eight states and the District of Columbia. Further, it does not allow for care outside the Kaiser Permanente system. As with all health insurance, prices and benefits vary by the individual, and in this case, it's important to check the availability and quality of care of Kaiser doctors and facilities in your local area. It is nonetheless one of the best health insurances overall, because within the system, the choice of health insurance plans is good, and the prices are well below average, according to our evaluation. Overall, it is definitely worth putting on your list of healthcare providers to explore.