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What Does HMO, PPO, EPO, & HDHP Mean for My Insurance?

This guide is here to help you understand the different types of health insurance plans, namely:

  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs),

  • Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs),

  • Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs), and

  • High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs),

and what they cover in terms of medical, dental, and vision services.

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs)


HMOs involve a network of healthcare providers who've agreed to offer their services at lower rates to insured individuals. This type of plan is usually cost-effective but requires patients to select a primary care physician (PCP). This PCP acts as the gatekeeper to specialist services, meaning referrals are required for most types of specialist care.

Dental + Vision

As for dental and vision services, HMOs might offer these services within the network. However, the details can vary significantly. Some HMOs may cover preventive and basic dental care (like cleanings, fillings) and regular vision exams, while others may not include these services. As an HR professional, you'll want to review any prospective HMO's coverage specifics for dental and vision services.

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs)


PPO plans offer more flexibility than HMOs, as they do not require a primary care physician or referrals to see specialists. However, this increased flexibility typically comes at a higher cost. PPOs have a network of preferred providers, but policyholders can also see out-of-network providers, albeit at a higher out-of-pocket cost.

Dental + Vision

PPOs often offer separate vision and dental plans, so coverage will vary. Some might offer comprehensive coverage for dental procedures, from preventive to major services, while others may limit coverage to basic care. The same applies to vision services - some PPOs may offer coverage for annual eye exams, glasses, and contact lenses, while others might not.

Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs)


EPOs strike a balance between HMOs and PPOs. They offer the flexibility of seeing any specialist within the network without a referral, but they don't provide coverage for out-of-network care, except in emergencies.

Dental + Vision

EPOs may or may not offer dental and vision coverage; it largely depends on the specific plan. It is crucial to thoroughly review any potential EPO plan to understand what dental and vision services, if any, are covered.

High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs)


HDHPs feature lower premiums but higher deductibles than traditional insurance plans. They're often paired with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) that allow individuals to pay for certain medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. While these plans can save money for individuals who don't require frequent medical care, they can lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for those who need regular medical attention.

Dental + Vision

HDHPs vary widely in what they cover for dental and vision services. Some may offer limited coverage, while others may not provide any at all. As with the other plans, you'll need to review the specific details of each HDHP to determine what's covered.


Remember, each of these plans has its pros and cons, and the "best" option largely depends on your organization's specific needs. When selecting a plan, consider your employees' needs, the size of your organization, and your company's budget in the context of the Total Rewards for your team.

As an HR professional, your role is crucial in navigating these choices and ensuring your team has the health coverage they need. Being well-informed about these options will allow you to be a better advocate for your team and make more confident decisions on their behalf.

If you need clarity on your options, we are here to help!

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