What Does PPO Stand For?

In your search for health insurance plans, you must have come across the acronym ‘PPO’. What does it stand for and what does it entail? Let us find out.

Is it safe to say that you are thinking about enrolling in a PPO health insurance plan? Make sure that it will suit your requirements by seeing how it works. If you are already signed up for a PPO, seeing how it works will help you utilize your health insurance adequately and keep away from costly errors. With regards to health insurance, finding out the differences between an HMO and a PPO can be challenging. You have most likely known about HMOs, PPOs, and maybe some other  acronyms. However, what are they? What is the difference between them? Also, more critically, how would you conclude which is the best one for you? In this article, we are particularly going to cover PPOs. What does PPO stand for? How does it work? What does it cover? Let us jump straight into the article.

What does PPO stand for?

PPO stands for preferred provider organization. They get this name because they have lists of healthcare providers that they prefer you to use. You will pay less if you get your health care from these preferred providers. Just like an HMO (or health maintenance organization), a PPO plan provides a network of healthcare suppliers you can use for your medical care.

What is a PPO plan?

In the Individual and Family market, PPO plans, or Preferred Provider Organization plans, are one of the most common types of plans. These plans allow you to visit any in-network physician or healthcare provider you want to see, without first needing a referral from a primary care physician.

Most health insurance plans are serviced through either a preferred provider organization (PPO) or a health maintenance organization (HMO). A PPO is a managed care organization composed of clinical experts and offices like primary and specialty doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare experts. These experts contract with the insurance provider to render subscribed members services at a diminished rate which has been settled upon. In return for reduced rates, insurance providers pay the PPO a fee to get to the network of providers.

As an individual from a PPO plan, you will be urged to utilize the insurance’s organization of preferred doctors and you normally will not have to pick a primary care physician. Regardless of which healthcare provider you pick, in-network healthcare services will be covered at a higher benefit level than out-of-network services. Check if your provider acknowledges your health plan so you get the highest level of benefit coverage.

You will presumably have a yearly deductible to pay before the insurance organization begins covering your medical expenses. You may likewise have a co-payment of about $10 – $30 for specific services or you might be needed to cover a specific percentage of the total charges for your medical expenses.

Providers and insurers negotiate expenses and schedules for services. PPO members are allowed to utilize the services of any provider inside their network. Out-of-network care is accessible, however, it costs more for the insured. A sensible and standard expense schedule is utilized for out-of-network claims. If those claims surpass the sensible and standard expenses for services delivered, coverage may not apply or, usually, the excess charge will be the responsibility of the patient. PPO supporters normally pay a copayment for each provider visit, or they should meet a deductible before insurance covers or pays the claim.

PPO plans will in general charge higher premiums since they are costlier to regulate and oversee. Nonetheless, they offer greater adaptability and flexibility as compared to alternative plans. PPO networks are huge, with providers in numerous cities and states. The flexibility in picking a provider or getting to a provider in dire circumstances offers some benefits to members.

How does a PPO work?

PPOs work in the following ways:


If you pay part; the PPO also pays part. A PPO utilizes cost-sharing to help with holding costs in check. At the point when you see the doctor or use healthcare services, you pay for part of the expense of those services yourself through deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. Cost-sharing is essential for a PPO’s system for ensuring you truly need the healthcare services you are getting. At the point when you need to pay something for your care, even a small copayment, you are less inclined to utilize superfluous services pointlessly (nonetheless, there are concerns, that even little cost-sharing can likewise be a deterrent that holds some plan members back from getting essential care; some health care reform proponents have proposed progressing to a system that does not have cost-sharing when clinical care is received).

Because of the Affordable Care Act, non-grandfathered plans cannot need any cost-sharing for certain preventive services. Cost-sharing helps offset the expense of your care. The more you pay toward the cost of your care, the less your health insurance plan pays, and the lower will be your month to month premium charges.

Provider networks

On the off chance that you utilize a PPO’s network of providers, you save money. A PPO limits from whom or from where you get healthcare services by using a network of healthcare providers with whom it has negotiated discounts. A PPO’s network incorporates not just doctors, but also every kind of healthcare service like labs, X-ray facilities, physical therapists, clinical equipment providers, hospitals, and outpatient surgery clinics.

The PPO gives an impetus to you to get your care from its network of providers by charging you a higher deductible and higher copays or potentially coinsurance when you get your care out-of-network. For instance, you may have a $40 copay to see an in-network doctor, but a 50% coinsurance charge for seeing an out-of-network doctor. So if the out-of-network doctor charges $250 for that appointment, you will pay $125 as opposed to the $40 copay you would have been charged if you had utilized an in-network doctor. What’s more is that the out-of-pocket maximum is usually at least twice as high in case you are getting care outside the network. Sometimes, there is no out-of-pocket maximum at all for out-of-network care, implying that the patient’s charges can keep on developing, without a cap (the ACA’s limits on out-of-pocket expenses apply only to in-network costs).

Furthermore, out-of-network providers can charge you after your PPO pays a bit of the claim, regardless of whether you are already paid the cost-sharing needed by your health plan. This is on the grounds that the out-of-network provider does not have a contract with your insurance provider and is not needed to accept the insurer’s repayment rates as payment in full. All things considered, despite the fact that you pay more when you use out-of-network healthcare providers, one of the advantages of a PPO is that, when you use out-of-network providers, the PPO contributes something toward the cost of those services. This is one of the ways in which a PPO varies from an HMO. An HMO will not pay anything in the event that you get your care out-of-network except if it is an emergency circumstance.

Prior authorization

As a rule, a PPO will expect you to get non-emergency services pre-authorized. Earlier approval is a way for a PPO to ensure that it is just paying for healthcare services that are truly essential, so the insurance providers may ask you to get pre-authorized before you have costly tests, treatments, or procedures. On the off chance that the PPO needs earlier approval and you do not get it, the PPO can dismiss your claim. So read the subtleties of your policy to find out whether you need earlier approval before getting certain clinical benefits.

PPOs differ on which tests, services, procedures and medication or treatment they require pre-approval for. However, you should keep in mind that you might require pre-approval for anything costly or whatever can be accomplished more economically in a different way. For instance, you could possibly get prescriptions for older nonexclusive medications filled without a pre-approval but you need to get your PPO’s authorization for a costly brand-name medication to treat a similar condition.

At the point when you or your primary care physician asks the PPO for pre-authorization, the PPO will presumably need to know why you need that test, service, or treatment. It is essentially trying to ensure that you truly need that care, and that there is not a more thrifty approach to achieve a similar objective. For instance, when your orthopedic surgeon requests pre-authorization for your knee surgery, your PPO may ask you to try physical therapy first. In the event that you try the physical therapy and it does not fix the issue, the PPO might go on and pre-authorize your knee surgery.

No PCP requirement

In contrast to HMOs, you do not need to have a primary care physician (PCP) with a PPO. You are allowed to go directly to a specialist, without a reference from a PCP. However, contingent upon the circumstance, you might require earlier authorization from your insurance organization, so, just in case, you will need to get in touch with your PPO before making a medical appointment.

What does PPO insurance cover?

Medicare Advantage PPO plans need to cover the same services that are covered by Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Some plans offer additional coverage including:

  • dental
  • hearing
  • vision
  • wellness programs

Despite the kind of plan an individual chooses, emergency and urgent care is covered. Medicare Advantage provides coverage for more services than they have previously, such as:

  • adult day care services
  • over-the-counter medications
  • transportation to the doctor
  • wellness programs

Individuals with a PPO plan for the most part have prescription medication coverage. Nonetheless, note that each PPO plan is unique and may offer diverse inclusion. Numerous prescription drugs have a copay. The copay sum will typically be less for a nonexclusive medication than for a specific brand. It could be a percentage of the total or a set dollar sum. The drug may likewise require pre-authorization from the provider before they pay for it.

PPOs cover your care in the event that you visit an out-of-network provider or office. In any case, you might pay a higher sum for out-of-network services. PPOs cannot charge more than Original Medicare charges for particular sorts of care, including chemotherapy, dialysis, and skilled nursing facility (SNF) care. Be that as it may, PPOs can charge higher copays for different services, including home health, durable medical equipment (DME), and inpatient hospital care. Your PPO might offer extra advantages, like vision, hearing, as well as dental care. Check with the plan directly to find out about inclusion rules and limitations for any additional advantages.

The plan that an individual chooses can opt to deny inclusion for health services that are not considered therapeutically/medically significant by Medicare. If an individual is uncertain of whether their plan covers a specific service, it is ideal to call the provider before getting the treatment.

How much does a PPO plan cost?

Since PPO plans give the most adaptability to the insured individual, most people will find that they have the most costly month to month expenses. The average month to month cost of a PPO health insurance plan for a 40-year-old is $517, which is 21% more expensive than an HMO policy. Despite the fact that a PPO plan is ordinarily the most expensive health insurance strategy you can buy, you ought not ignore this option. For instance, a PPO policy can be valuable for somebody who might have unique health needs, for example, back pain that requires a visit to an expert chiropractor.

  • Most plans charge a monthly premium along with the Part B premium. Plans may charge a higher premium if you also have Part D coverage.
  • Plans may set their own deductibles, copayments, and other cost-sharing for services. PPOs usually set fixed copays for in-network services and might charge more if you see an out-of-network provider.
  • PPOs set two yearly limits on your out-of-pocket expenses. One limit is for in-network expenses and the other is for combined in-network and out-of-network expenses. These limits may keep you safe from excessive costs in case you require a lot of care or expensive treatments. For instance, your PPO may have an out-of-pocket limit of $1,000 for your in-network expenses, and an out-of-pocket limit of $4,000 for your combined in-network and out-of-network expenses. You could meet the combined limit by spending $1,000 on in-network services and $3,000 on out-of-network services, or by spending $4,000 on out-of-network services.

How to enroll in a PPO plan?

Whether you have decided on an HMO or a PPO, you can sign up for the plan of your choice each fall during the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) for individual health insurance or the Annual Election Period (AEP) for Medicare enrollees. For instance, the 2021 OEP schedule looked like this:

  • November 1, 2020: Open Enrollment started. New plans and prices were available for preview and enrollment.
  • December 15, 2020: This was the last day to sign up for plans, or change plans for coverage that started on January 1, 2021.
  • Additional Deadlines: Some states extended their OEP deadline.

For Medicare enrollees, the following dates need to be kept in mind:

  • October 15: The Annual Election Period (AEP) opens. During this period, you can switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans have HMO and PPO options. You can also change back to Original Medicare from a Medicare Advantage plan or change Medicare Advantage plans.
  • December 7: This is the last day to make changes to your Medicare coverage for it to start January 1.
  • January 1: Your new Medicare coverage becomes active. This is also the start of the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. During this period, you can leave a Medicare Advantage plan and change back to Original Medicare.
  • March 31: The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period ends. This is the last day you can change back to Original Medicare and add a Part D prescription drug plan.

Differences between a PPO and other networks

Managed-care plans like HMOs, exclusive provider organizations (EPOs) and point of service (POS) plans differ from PPOs and from one another severally. Some pay for out-of-network care; some do not. Some have a small cost-sharing; others have enormous deductibles and require huge coinsurance and copays. Some require a primary care physician (PCP) to act as your watchman, just permitting you to get healthcare services with a reference from your PCP; others do not. Also, PPOs are generally more costly (for a plan with practically identical cost-sharing) since they give you more freedom of choice as far as the clinical providers you can use are concerned.

A wide range of health insurance policies will give inclusion to services. The primary distinction will be the place where you can get those health services, which will be dictated by the provider network of the health insurance plan. Notwithstanding where you get care, various networks will also decide the amount you will pay for those health services. This makes choosing a health strategy with the right network for your necessities extremely critical. We have given details of every provider network contrasted with a PPO below.


The main difference between a health maintenance organization (HMO) and PPO is that you will need to appoint a primary care physician (PCP) who will oversee and manage your care if you have an HMO health insurance plan. In this case, you will also have to get a referral from that PCP if you want to visit any specialists. Moreover, you will also, most probably have to pay full price for any health services out of your network. An HMO will have a slightly lower premium when compared with a PPO policy since you have tighter limitations on where you can get the care from.


Exclusive provider organizations (EPOs) differ from PPOs in that these policies have the strictest rules concerning which health facilities and doctors you can visit. In fact, with an EPO you can only visit in-network providers unless you need emergency care. Keeping these limitations in mind, before selecting an EPO health insurance plan you should check that there are in-network providers within your area that accept the policy.


Point of service (POS) policies and PPOs only differ in the amount of flexibility and adaptability that they provide. Both types of networks will permit you to visit in-network providers at low costs and even provide cheap rates if you visit an out-of-network specialist. However, with a POS plan, you will need to appoint a PCP who will need to refer you to see specialists.

More on PPO vs. HMO

Since PPOs are usually directly contrasted against HMOs, let us take a more detailed look at how these two differ from each other. As compared PPOs, HMO plans expect members to get healthcare services from a doled out provider — a primary care physician who facilitates the insured’s care. The two projects permit the insured to look for expert care. Nonetheless, under an HMO plan, the assigned primary care physician should give a reference for a specialist.

PPO plans charge higher premiums than HMOs for the convenience, availability, and freedom that PPOs offer, such as a more extensive selection of hospitals and doctors. Plans with the most reduced/least out-of-pocket costs, like those with low deductibles and low co-payments, have higher premiums. The raised premium expense is because of the insurer engrossing a greater amount of the related expenses. On the other hand, lower-premium choices convert into higher out-of-pocket expenses for the insured and lower costs for the insurer.

A few members favor HMO plans for their affordability, despite the fact that services and freedoms ordinarily connected with PPO plans are usually limited. PPO plans are likewise more comprehensive with respect to inclusion, including numerous services that other managed-care programs may exclude or for which they would charge an extra premium.

Historically, PPO plans were the preferred choice among employer group members. Be that as it may, today, members need more options for managed-healthcare. In this manner, numerous groups offer HMO plans, too. Since HMO premiums are more affordable, a few members favor HMO plans for their affordability, in spite of the fact that services and opportunities ordinarily connected with PPO plans are often limited.

Provider Networks

A network is a group of healthcare providers that are under contract with insurance organizations to offer limited services for a specific HMO or PPO plan. They commonly incorporate general doctors, alongside specialists like dermatologists and chiropractors. To get coverage in an HMO, you should initially see your PCP, regardless of the issue. In the event that they cannot treat you, they will refer you to another person inside the network. Remaining inside your network in an HMO plan, you can expect maximum insurance coverage. Go outside of the network and your coverage disappears. With a PPO, you can visit specialists outside the network and still get some coverage, however not as much as you would if you had stayed in the network.

Cost Analysis

With a PPO, the trade-off for getting the freedom of choice and adaptability is higher premium expenses for the plan. An HMO offers no coverage outside the network but patients get lower premium costs.

Claims Forms

With an HMO, patients are not required to file a claim because healthcare providers are paid directly by the insurance organization. However, under PPO, patients must sometimes first pay out-of-network providers and then file a claim for repayment from the insurance organization.

Services Covered

The variety of services provided under the two plans depends on the company and the type of plan taken, but they are usually similar.


The coverage under an HMO is limited to a network. In the same way, the pharmacy locations where one can get their prescriptions filled and covered under the plan are limited as well. PPOs permit patients to fill a prescription almost anywhere but with extra charges for an out-of-network pharmacy.


Patients with an HMO plan are not required to have a referral during an emergency or for in-network visits to a gynecologist or obstetrician.

When should you get a PPO?

A PPO plan may be right for you if:

  • You do not want to get referrals before visiting a specialist
  • You want a part of out-of-network claims to be covered by your insurance organization
  • You want the freedom to choose almost any medical facility or provider for your healthcare needs


Medicare Advantage PPO plans, otherwise called Preferred Provider Organization plans, have a network of providers, for example, doctors that cost less than other out-of-network providers. PPO plans offer more adaptability than HMO plans, where an individual can simply go to healthcare specialists inside their network. Anybody worried about whether their Medicare Advantage PPO plan covers a specific treatment or service should get in touch with their provider.

There is no general response to the question of which is better – an HMO or a PPO. It is to a great extent dependent on the individual inclinations of clients. Most importantly HMOs give affordability, while PPOs give more prominent adaptability, flexibility, and freedom of choice. Statistics show that a larger number of individuals are enrolled in PPO plans than HMO plans. In 2014, 58% of laborers picked a PPO as their employer-supplied health insurance plan, contrasted with only 13% of employees who picked an HMO. Regardless of the ubiquity of PPOs, an examination directed by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) shows that HMO plans draw better consumer loyalty evaluations. The decision among HMOs and PPOs is fundamentally a decision among cost and comfort.

Sandra Johnson

Sandra Johnson

Sandra Johnson was a few years out of school and took a job as a life insurance agent in California, selling coverage door-to-door for Prudential. The experience taught her about the technical components of insurance and its benefits for individuals and society, as well as the misunderstandings people often have about insurance. She has over ten years’ experience in the insurance industry, having worked as both a Broker and Underwriter, assisting clients across a broad range of industries. At Insurance Noon, Sarah diligently gathers all the required information and curates up pieces to provide meaningful insurance solutions. Her personal value proposition is to demonstrate a genuine interest in always adding value for clients.Her determined approach to guiding clients has turned her into a platinum adviser to multiple insurers.