Health Insurance Terms Explained: HMO, EPO and PPO Plans

By: Lyndsey West

November 03, 2021

Man looking at tablet

When it comes to purchasing a health insurance plan, you’ve probably heard of the two plan types, HMO and PPO, but what exactly do these terms mean, and what is an EPO? Let’s learn more about these plan types and how you can choose the plan that meets your needs.

What is an HMO Plan?

HMO stands for “Health Maintenance Organization.” HMO plans contract with doctors and hospitals creating a network to provide health services for members in a specific area at lower rates, while also meeting quality standards. HMO plans require you to select a primary care physician (PCP) and usually require a referral from your PCP to see a specialist or to have certain tests done. If you choose to see a provider outside of the HMO’s network, the plan will not cover those services and you will be responsible for all charges.

What is an EPO Plan?

An EPO means “Exclusive Provider Organization.” This plan provides members with the opportunity to choose in-network providers within a broader network and to visit specialists without a referral from their primary care doctor. EPO plans offer a larger network than an HMO plan and typically do not have the out-of-network benefits of PPO plans. Generally, EPO plans cost more than an HMO, but less than a PPO.

What is a PPO Plan?

PPO stands for “Preferred Provider Organization.” PPO plans are often more flexible when it comes to choosing a doctor or a hospital. These plans still include a network of providers, but there are fewer restrictions on the providers you choose. PPO plans do not require you to select a primary care physician (PCP), giving you a broader network of providers.

So, which plan should you choose?

Each plan type has different benefits, so it depends on your health needs when choosing the right plan type. If you are looking for flexibility when choosing providers and locations, a PPO plan may better fit your needs. An EPO plan may be a better option if you travel often and want the flexibility of a larger network, but don’t necessarily need out-of-network benefits. If you regularly seek care in a certain geographic area and are looking for a health insurance plan at a lower price point, consider an HMO plan.

To keep costs low, insurance carriers contract with providers and partner in plan members’ health to ensure quality care at the lowest cost. Whether you choose an HMO, EPO or PPO option, partnering with your health insurance carrier and your healthcare provider will help you receive the best care while controlling your out-of-pocket costs.


Get the most out of your health insurance benefits!

Established in 1988, Hometown Health is the insurance division of Renown Health and is northern Nevada’s largest and only locally-owned, not-for-profit insurance company providing wide-ranging medical coverage and great customer service to members.

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