You should receive a health insurance card once your policy becomes effective. Your health insurance card contains your name and usually the names of your dependents, along with a unique number for each covered person. You may be denied service at a healthcare provider unless you can produce your card; some healthcare providers may allow you to give them your health insurance policy number in lieu of a card if they're able to call your health insurance company to verify your information.
Your policy number is how your insurance company and your healthcare provider keep track of billing. Your health insurer will bill your insurance company for services rendered, and in return, the insurance company will use your policy number to pay the healthcare provider. If the information you provide is incorrect, your health insurance company may refuse payment, in which case you'll receive a bill from your health provider. You may be able to resubmit your information after you receive a bill.
Your group number is different from your policy number. If you're insured through an employer, school or other group with multiple members, you'll have a group plan listed on your card. The group plan is to an insurance policy what an area code is to phone numbers: The group plan identifies the general area --- and, in some cases, the department serving your group plan --- while the policy number identifies you specifically.
If you have family members on the same plan, you may notice that your numbers look almost identical. The primary policyholder is usually identified with one number, with dependents being identified by a suffix. For example, if your policy number is "Q123456X," your son may have the ID number "Q123456X-1" and your daughter may have ID number "Q123456X-2."
Solutions for a Lost Number
You should keep your insurance card safe like you would a credit card. If you lose your card, call your insurance provider immediately to prevent fraud and to ensure you aren't refused treatment when you need it. Some insurance companies will allow you to download a new ID card if you have an online account. They may also be able to fax you a card or send it overnight.
A health insurance policy number identifies you as a unique member to your health insurance company. Your insurance policy number is the key to obtaining treatment and ensuring that your healthcare provider can properly bill your insurer. You can normally find your policy number on your health insurance card.