A contract between an insurance provider (e.g. an insurance company or a government) and an individual or his/her sponsor (e.g. an employer or a community organization). The contract can be renewable (e.g. annually, monthly) or lifelong in the case of private insurance, or be mandatory for all citizens in the case of national plans. The type and amount of health care costs that will be covered by the health insurance provider are specified in writing, in a member contract or "Evidence of Coverage" booklet for private insurance, or in a national health policy for public insurance.
The Commonwealth Fund completed its thirteenth annual health policy survey in 2010. A study of the survey "found significant differences in access, cost burdens, and problems with health insurance that are associated with insurance design". Of the countries surveyed, the results indicated that people in the United States had more out-of-pocket expenses, more disputes with insurance companies than other countries, and more insurance payments denied; paperwork was also higher although Germany had similarly high levels of paperwork.
There are different options available to both employers and employees. There are different types of plans, including health savings accounts and plans with a high or low deductible. The plans that have the high deductibles typically cost the employee less for the monthly premiums, but the part they pay for each time they use their insurance, as well as the overall deductible before the insurance covers anything is much higher. These types of plans are good for the people who rarely go to the doctor and need little health care. The lower deductible plans are typically more expensive, however, they save the employee from having to spend a lot of money out of pocket for services and treatment. The recent trend for employers is to offer the high deductible plans, called consumer-driven healthcare plans, because it costs them less overall for the care their employees need, but it is a lower monthly premium for the employees.