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Active Work Requirement

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The minimum number of hours per week that an employee is required to work to qualify for and maintain eligibility for benefits.

Affordable Coverage (Employer-Sponsored Health Plans)

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Health coverage offered by your employer that:
  • Would cost you, for your policy alone, less than 9.5% of your income for the monthly premium, and
  • Meets bronze-level standards.

If you have an option that meets these standards, you and your family cannot qualify for government subsidies to get private insurance on Healthcare.gov. If your income is low enough, you may still qualify for Medi-Cal.

Benefits Planner

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A trained expert who can help you understand and apply for benefit programs. Their goal is to help you develop a plan for your future and organize your financial life to run as smoothly as possible.
  • For questions about work and your Social Security benefits, use Social Security's "Find Help" tool to locate a WIPA project near you. You can also call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 / 1-866-833-2967 (TTY/TDD). The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) also has Work Incentives Planners (WIPs).
  • If you need assistance with your Medicare, the Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program can help. HICAP provides free information and counseling to people with Medicare. You can call HICAP at 1-800-434-0222 or visit the HICAP website.
  • If you need assistance with Medi-Cal and have a disability, you can contact Disability Rights California at 1-800-776-5746 or visit their website. You may also be able to get help with Medi-Cal from a local legal aid organization. The Health Consumer Alliance website has a lot of useful information about Medi-Cal, including a web page that can direct you to a local legal organization for assistance.
  • If you have questions or need assistance with a program or benefit not listed here, contact an Independent Living Center. Independent Living Centers provide peer support and information on a wide range of topics for people with disabilities.

CARE/HIPP (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency/Health Insurance Premium Payment Program)

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A program that pays for private health insurance premiums for individuals who are disabled due to HIV or AIDS and who do not qualify for Medi-Cal/HIPP. Enrollment is administered through AIDS organizations authorized by CARE/HIPP.

Catastrophic Plan

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A health coverage plan that generally has a lower premium and provides most benefits only after a large deductible has been paid. This sort of plan is most useful for people who do not have regular medical expenses but wish to be covered in case of an accident or other sudden and significant medical needs. These plans may allow you to see your primary care provider up to 3 times per year and get preventive care without paying the deductible.

If you are under 30, you can sign up for a catastrophic plan on Covered California.


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The portion of the payment for medical services that an individual is responsible for. For example, your health coverage may pay for 80% of the costs of a service, while you will have to pay the remaining 20%. That 20% is known as "co-insurance."

Conversion Policy

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A conversion insurance policy is something you can buy when your employer-sponsored group health insurance policy ends. It lets you keep buying insurance through the same insurance company. You may have to use up all your COBRA coverage first, before you can get a conversion policy, depending on the regulations in your state.


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A set amount you have to pay when you receive medical services. For example, you may have to pay $30 every time you visit the doctor or $20 to get a prescription refilled. This is also known as a "copay."

Coverage Effective Date

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The date an individual is enrolled in coverage. The effective date is usually not the same as the date of hire.


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The amount an individual is responsible for paying for health care services before the insurer begins to pay.


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A person, usually a child, who is economically dependent on another person. Different programs have different definitions of when someone is a dependent.

Disability (Definition used by private insurers)

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A level of impairment that causes private insurers to provide benefits to people who have paid a monthly premium for coverage.

There are two common levels of disability according to private insurers:

  1. Own-Occupation Disability (or “Own Occ” ) means your disability prevents you from performing your own occupation, which means you cannot do the work or job you have been trained to do and have experience in
  2. Any-Occupation Disability (or “Any Occ”) means your disability prevents you from performing any occupation:
    • Sometimes Any Occ means that your disability prevents you from performing any occupation that pays at least a specified percentage of what you earned before your disability

Own-occupation insurance policies pay you if you are unable to perform your own occupation, even if you are able to get a different type of job. They have higher premiums than policies that require you to be unable to perform any occupation. Check with your insurer to see which definition of disability your plan has.

Earned Income (EI)

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Salaries, wages, tips, professional fees, and other amounts you receive as pay for physical or mental work you perform. This can include things you get in exchange for work instead of wages, such as food, shelter, or other items. Funds received from any other source are not included. (Contrast: unearned income.)

Employer Mandate

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A part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires most employers with 100 or more employees to offer affordable insurance to their employees, or pay a fine.

Essential Health Benefits

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Benefits that federal law requires all health coverage plans provide. These benefits include:
  • Ambulatory patient services (care you get without being admitted to the hospital)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care (care before and after your baby is born)
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, including:
  • Prescription drugs
  • Laboratory services
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
  • Pediatric services for children, including oral and vision care

Fully-Insured Plan

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An insurance plan purchased for employees by an employer, through an insurance company. The employer pays premiums to that company, and the insurance company is responsible for providing the costs of health care, as agreed upon in the policy. Fully-insured plans are subject to federal and state regulation.

Group Coverage

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Coverage offered to an individual through a group, such as employer-sponsored, association-affiliated or professional group coverage.

Habilitative Services

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Services or devices which help a person with a health condition to develop skills useful for everyday living, which they have never developed before.

This is different than rehabilitative services, which help a person with a health condition relearn skills that they knew how to do before an illness, accident, or injury.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

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A law that protects the privacy and confidentiality of your health information, such as medical records and test results. It regulates how health care providers are allowed to handle and share your protected health information.

HIPAA also prevents group health plans from denying you coverage based on your health condition and provides protections for those buying individual health coverage. However, these parts of HIPAA are protections that are no longer needed, since the Affordable Care Act provides all the same protections, plus more.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

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A common type of health care coverage plan. HMOs require that you only see certain doctors and that your primary care physician decides when you need to see a specialist.

High-Deductible Plan

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A health coverage plan with a relatively low premium that usually doesn’t pay for the first few thousand dollars of health care expenses (this is your deductible) but will typically cover your expenses after you pay a certain set amount.

Indemnity Plan

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A type of health insurance plan. You pay monthly premiums and usually have co-insurance and a yearly deductible as well. Also known as fee-for-service.

Individual Health Coverage

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Private health insurance an individual or family purchases. The individual or family pays a monthly premium and the plan agrees to pay a portion of the cost of approved medical services when needed, like for preventive care, lab tests, surgery, or prescription drugs. The easiest way to purchase an individual plan is through Covered California.

The government may help individuals and families with low to middle income who get their coverage through Covered California pay for their monthly premiums and a portion of the cost of approved medical services.

Individual Mandate

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The individual mandate was a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that required most Americans to have health coverage or pay a fine. This fine was sometimes called the ACA “tax penalty.”

Starting in 2019 there is no tax penalty if you don't have coverage.

Note: The state of California has its own individual mandate. Learn more about the California individual mandate and tax penalty.

Initial Enrollment Period (Private Coverage)

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The first time an individual is eligible to enroll in a group’s benefits programs.

Managed Care

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Health coverage that requires you to get most services within a network.

With managed care, you have a primary care provider who oversees your care and refers you to specialists within the network when needed.

Medical Treatment/Care

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Any medical care that you receive for a medical condition. Some examples include being prescribed medication, visits to the doctor, and therapy for a mental health problem.


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A group of doctors or medical service providers who have signed a contract with a health coverage plan. If you have health coverage through a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), you generally have to see doctors within the network. Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) and Point of Service (POS) plans allow you to see doctors outside of your network, but you will have to pay more.

Open Enrollment Period

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The annual time period when an individual may add or change private insurance plans offered by an employer, an association, or through Covered California. Certain situations, such as divorce, the birth of a child, or loss of another insurance plan may allow a person to sign up for an insurance plan outside of this time period.

Out-Of-Pocket Costs

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The health care related costs you pay yourself without help from Medicare, Medi-Cal, or other health insurance.

Out-Of-Pocket Maximum

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The maximum amount of money that you have to spend on health costs in a year. After you reach the out-of-pocket maximum, your policy will pay the entire cost of covered services. The out-of-pocket maximum does not count the premiums you pay, and certain other costs may or may not be counted.

Point-Of-Service (POS) Plan (Private Health Coverage)

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A type of health coverage that allows you to choose between HMO, PPO, and Indemnity coverage. You can choose to pay less and have your care managed by a physician, or pay more to have more choices in the doctors you can see.

Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP)

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Government-run insurance plans for people who couldn’t get insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions, PCIPs ended on January 1, 2014. Now, insurance companies cannot deny people health coverage because of pre-existing conditions. People who don’t have health insurance can get coverage through Covered California.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

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A type of health insurance plan. You pay a monthly premium and — when you use medical services — copayments and deductibles. PPOs have networks of physicians. You can see any doctor in the network without getting prior authorization from a primary care physician. Seeing a doctor outside of the network is more expensive.

Premium (General)

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A regularly scheduled payment to an insurer or health care plan.

Primary Care Provider (PCP)

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The doctor, nurse practitioner, or other medical service provider who is in charge of your medical care in a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). In HMOs, you have to see a PCP in order to get a referral to see a specialist. Other types of health coverage might not have PCPs, or might charge you more if you see a specialist without getting a referral from a PCP.

Prior Authorization (Private Health Coverage)

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A health plan process of reviewing medical services or medications before they give you permission to go ahead with the service or use the medication. This is done to ensure that the service or medication is appropriate and necessary before the plan pays for it.

Private Duty Nursing

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The care of clients by nurses. Most nurses who provide private duty care are working one-on-one with individual clients. Sometimes such care is provided in the client's home, or an institution, such as a hospital, nursing home, or other such facility.

Private Health Coverage

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Health coverage through a private company that pays for medical expenses. A monthly premium must be paid for this coverage by the individual or family covered, by an employer, or by an association. The individuals covered by private health plans must also make payments such as copayments or coinsurance each time they use certain medical services.

In some cases, the federal government may help low to middle-income families pay for private health coverage through tax subsidies if they are in very specific situations and do not have other affordable health coverage alternatives.

Qualified Medical Expense

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Expenses for certain items or services that are approved by your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) (also called a Flexible Spending Arrangement). You should get a list of what things count as qualified medical expenses, so you know ahead of time which things will be covered by your FSA, and which things will not

Rehabilitative Services

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Services or devices which help a person with a health condition to relearn skills that they knew how to do before an illness, accident, or injury.

Self-Insured Plan

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A plan that covers an individual’s medical expenses with company funds set aside to pay health claims. In general, self-insured plans are subject to federal, but not state, health coverage laws. Ask your employer or plan to find out if you are in a self-insured plan.

Service Wait

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The period of time an individual is required to be employed by a company or be a member of an association before becoming eligible to enroll for the group’s health coverage. Also known as the minimum service requirement.

Special Enrollment Period (Private Health Coverage)

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When you get private group health coverage through your employer, you can only sign up for, or make changes to, an insurance plan during the open enrollment period. However, under certain circumstances, such as marriage, birth of a child, or loss of other insurance, a group health plan offers a special enrollment period. This special enrollment period lets you sign up for group health insurance, or make changes to your plan, without having to wait for an open enrollment period.

Subsidy (Individual Health Coverage)

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A support provided by the government that helps people and families with low to middle income pay for their health coverage when they purchase it through Covered California. This support means that individuals and families may qualify to get health plans with lower premiums and other expenses.

Families with income at or below 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG), $49,960 for an individual in 2020 ($103,000 for a family of four), may get federal tax subsidies to help pay for their health coverage premium.

Families with income at or below 250% of FPG, $31,225 for an individual ($64,375 for a family of four), may also get qualify to get health coverage with lower expenses, such as reduced copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles, as long as they choose to get a silver plan.

California state tax subsidies

In California, families with income at or below 600% of FPG who get private health coverage through Covered California may qualify for additional California tax subsidies. This starts for 2020 health coverage and will continue in 2021 and 2022.

Learn more about these state subsidies.

Tax Penalty (Individual Mandate)

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The individual mandate was a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that required most Americans to have health coverage or pay a fine. This fine was sometimes called the ACA “tax penalty.”

Starting in 2019 there is no tax penalty if you don't have coverage.

Note: The state of California has its own individual mandate. Learn more about the California individual mandate and tax penalty.

Vesting Requirement

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