Skip to main content

Should I consider secondary health insurance coverage?

"A" icon to represent Aetna By Aetna

As you probably know, your primary health insurance covers your basic medical expenses like doctors’ visits, lab tests and prescription drugs ― as well as some great perks . But your medical plan can’t cover everything. A separate plan that offers additional benefits is called secondary insurance.

Your secondary health insurance can be another medical plan, such as through your spouse. More often, it’s a different type of plan you’ve purchased to extend your coverage. In that case, you may hear it referred to as voluntary or supplemental coverage . All you need to remember is that primary and secondary plans work together to offer you coordinated benefits.

Different people need different supplemental plans, depending on their circumstances. Below, you’ll read how Peggy, Cecilia, DeWayne and Kevin use special policies to prepare for the unexpected financial and health challenges life sends their way.

Or watch this video to learn about the different coverage options available to you beyond your medical plan ― all in 60 seconds:

Dental plan: The mouth-body connection.

What goes on in your mouth can have an effect on your overall health. Regular dental care is especially important for people with diabetes , who are more prone to gum disease. Dental plans typically cover routine teeth cleanings and preventive care, as well as procedures like fillings and extractions.

Peggy, 38, is a married mom living in Raleigh, NC. A front desk agent at a local hotel, she bought dental insurance from her employer even though the family has medical coverage through her husband Jim. She’s glad she did: Peggy cracked a filling on a popcorn kernel and needs a repair. Since she chose a more comprehensive plan, she’ll pay only a fraction of the cost to get a new filling.

Within a week, a parent in her toddler’s play group gives her some news. Experts now recommend that little ones have their first dental appointment by age 1, or shortly after the first baby tooth comes in. Her 2-year-old son is overdue! Peggy is delighted to discover her plan covers her son’s visit.

Vision plan: A window into your overall health.

Vision plans usually cover routine eye exams and help cover prescription lenses (glasses or contacts) and frames. And like dental care, eye exams can also detect early signs of overall health problems, such as high blood pressure and lupus. That’s why it’s smart to see an eye doctor if even if you have 20/20 vision.

Cecilia, 27, is single and living in Miami, FL. The copy editor at a local magazine has worn prescription glasses since she was a young girl. She wants to update to a more stylish frame this year and knows that her vision plan gives her an annual frame allowance, as well as a reduction in the cost of prescription lenses. If she wanted to try out contacts, she could use her lens benefits for those instead. Either way, Cecilia will be looking her best and protecting her vision for the long term.

What supplemental coverage do I need?

Hospital plan: Extra help when you need it most.

A hospital indemnity plans is a popular add-on to a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) . This supplemental plan gives you a lump-sum check if you’re admitted to the hospital. You can use it to pay for out-of-pocket medical costs such as deductibles and coinsurance, or toward non-medical expenses such as rent and utilities.

DeWayne, 49, is a divorced father living in Philadelphia. An accountant, he’s always weighing the financial considerations of every expense. He has an HDHP through his employer, and also opts for a hospital indemnity plan. Even though his family is healthy, he knows an unexpected hospital stay can run $10,000, and the additional plan would help pay for out-of-pocket expenses like his high medical deductible.

Not long after, DeWayne’s daughter is hospitalized with appendicitis. His hospital plan pays a lump-sum benefit that helps offset her medical bills ― and allows this father to focus on his little girl during her recovery.

Knowing that his family’s needs will be covered helps Kevin worry less and focus on healing.

Disability plan: Cover your expenses when you can’t work.

Disability plans come in handy when you’re injured or ill, because they cover a portion of your income for day-to-day expenses. Short-term disability coverage can last anywhere between 9 and 52 weeks. After that, long-term disabilty coverage can kick in.

Kevin, 52, married his high school sweetheart in their hometown of Jacksonville, FL, where they’re raising four kids. He rarely got sick ― until now. After feeling extremely fatigued, Kevin checked in with his Primary Care Physician, who found blockages in his arteries. A stent procedure was unsuccessful, so Kevin will have to undergo bypass surgery. Because he doesn’t have any other major health problems, his surgeon expects a full and speedy recovery. But he’ll be out of work for 8 to 12 weeks.

The family depends on Kevin’s income to cover their major expenses. Fortunately, he has a short- and long-term disability plan through his employer. Kevin will receive 60 percent of his income while he’s out of work, and the family will use savings and reduce expenses to help make up the difference. If all goes well, he’ll only need to use his short-term disability plan. If complications delay his recovery, he’ll start collecting long-term disability. Knowing that his family’s financial needs will mostly be covered helps Kevin worry less and focus on healing.

These are some of the insurance choices beyond your medical plan that you may want to consider. If you get health insurance through your job, your employer can tell you what additional plans are available to you. Some supplemental plans may also be available directly from insurance companies.