Understanding Your Health Insurance ID Card

Health care decoded

Your health insurance ID card. It’s a tiny piece of plastic that sits in your wallet. It may go largely unnoticed (aside from during doctor appointments and other medical services), but that little card is packed full of some very valuable information about your health insurance plan – information that can help you navigate the world of health care and ensure that when you receive medical care, it’s covered and billed correctly. And that’s a large part of what CDPHP® is about: As part of our Health Care Decoded initiative, it’s our mission to empower you with the tools you need to understand your health insurance.

Let’s start with a closer look at your health insurance ID card and some of the key pieces of information that it contains. Please keep in mind these are general categories of information. Your card might vary, depending on your health insurance company and the type of health plan that you have.

The Basics

First and foremost, your health insurance card contains some straightforward identification information:

  • The name of your health insurance company and possibly contact information (website, phone numbers, etc.)
  • Your name
  • The name of the subscriber or policyholder, if it’s not you. This may appear if you get your health insurance through another family member’s employer (e.g., spouse, parent)
  • The names of other covered family members (e.g., spouse, children) may also appear here

Member ID

Each member of a health plan is assigned a unique ID number, which allows doctors and other health care providers to verify your health insurance coverage and eligibility. If you have a question for your health insurer, this information will allow their customer service department to bring up your account to view your claims and benefits, and to answer any questions you may have.

Group Number

A health insurer also assigns a unique ID number to each employer that purchases one of its plans. This is called the group number, and you’ll see it on your ID card if you receive your health insurance through an employer. It identifies the benefits of your specific plan and your doctor’s office will use it, along with your member ID, to submit claims.

Plan Type

There are many different types of health insurance. The most common plan types you’ll see listed on your ID card are HMO insurance plans (health maintenance organizations), PPO insurance plans (preferred provider organizations), EPO insurance plans (exclusive provider organizations), and HDHPs (high deductible health plans). Each plan type is defined by its specific requirements regarding referrals, in- and out-of-network providers, and how out-of-pocket costs are calculated.

Payment Information

Most health insurance cards will show how much you will be expected to pay (your out-of-pocket costs) for common services like visits with your primary care physician (PCP), specialist visits and urgent care and emergency room visits. This may be listed as a flat rate (a copay) or a percentage of the total cost of the service (coinsurance). If two numbers are listed, the first represents your cost at an in-network provider, and the second is your cost at an out-of-network provider.

Prescription Benefits


A formulary is a list of prescription drugs that your insurance company will cover. Some insurers have several formularies. Each CDPHP member will have one of three formularies listed on his or her ID card – Formulary 1, Formulary 2 or the Medicaid Formulary. If your CDPHP member ID card does not have a formulary listed, you have Formulary 1.

Prescription Costs

Formularies are commonly divided into three tiers. Your card may list the price you’ll pay at each tier level when you use a participating pharmacy.

Pharmacy Network

Some insurers have different pharmacy networks for different plans. A CDPHP member has one of three pharmacy networks: Premier (for all CDPHP plans offered through an employer), Value (for CDPHP individual health plans) or Medicare.

Rx BIN (banking identification number)

Your pharmacist will use this number to process your prescription. It indicates which company will reimburse the pharmacy for the cost of the prescription and where to send the claim for reimbursement.

Medical Network

Your insurance company may provide out-of-area coverage through a different health care provider network. If so, this will be listed here.

The Back of the Card

The back of your health insurance ID card is where you’ll be likely to find additional information, like important telephone numbers and addresses for doctors and hospitals so that they can verify eligibility, file claims, get pre-authorizations, etc. It might also provide hotlines and other resources for a variety of specific situations (e.g., chemical dependency services number, fraud hotline).

And there you have it – a breakdown of the most common pieces of information that you’ll find on your health insurance ID card. Now you know why that little piece of plastic is so important. And if you’re a CDPHP member, you can access your ID card online through our secure member site, or have it with you everywhere your smartphone is with the My CDPHP Mobile app!

Does your ID card have something we didn’t explain? Check out more of our Health Care Decoded health insurance explanations, or let us know in the comments below! Or, call the customer service number listed on your card for further explanations on the details of your plan.

24 Responses to “Understanding Your Health Insurance ID Card”

  1. Margaret Ross

    I enjoyed the article explaining what is on my CDPHP card. I would like to offer the following improvement to the card. The most important item, my member number, should appear in much larger type. It would help those of us who are aging and require reading glasses otherwise. Thank you.

    • Hello, Margaret. Thank you for your very insightful and useful comment. I will definitely pass that information along to the membership and billing department; it’s always great for us to hear such important feedback from our members!

  2. Morgan

    What does “Plan Code” mean on my insurance card? Is it the same as a benefit code?

    • Thank you for your comment, Morgan. Because health insurance companies include different information on their ID cards, I suggest that you contact your health insurer’s member services department to find out what a plan code is. Let us know what you learn!

    • Thank you for your comment. Because the information on ID cards varies according to which health insurer you have, I suggest that you contact your insurance company. They should be able to help you. Good luck!

    • Thank you for your comment. While ID cards vary according to the health plan that designs them, the group number is a vital piece of information that should be included. For example, on CDPHP ID cards, the group number is located on the lower left side of the card and is clearly labeled. I hope this was helpful!

  3. Piran Beloa Forcha

    I have heard people say they have multiple family members on one insurance card. Are the other family members indicated the BIN number or person code ?

    • Thank you for your comment! While ID cards differ according to the health insurance company that administers them, if a person’s family members, or dependents, are covered under the same plan, each dependent is usually listed on the card under the main policy holder. For example, if John Smith’s wife and two children are covered under his health plan, their names will appear on the ID card as follows:

      John Smith
      Mary Smith
      Sam Smith
      Sally Smith

      The BIN number is used by your pharmacy to process your prescriptions, and I believe the code you’re referring to is the member suffix. Each member of a family account will have the same ID number and a two-digit suffix to differentiate them. The subscriber is always 00 and typically the spouse is 01. The remaining dependents would follow suit.

      I hope this helps!

  4. Piran Beloa Forcha

    Thanks so much, you explained everything with clarity.

  5. Austin

    All that my card says is Carrier, Policy, ID, and Issue. Is “Carrier”, the so called Group Number?

    • Thanks for your comment, Austin. Usually, the “carrier” field includes the name of your health insurance company. If you’re a CDPHP member and have additional questions, please call us at (518) 641-3700. Hope this helps!

  6. where can I find who the policy holder is and does it say it on my card?

    • Thanks for your comment, Camila. The policyholder is usually the first name listed on your member ID card. On CDPHP ID cards, policyholders are located right below the ID number on the left-hand side and include the “00” suffix. Hope this helps!

  7. Leslie Farley

    Hi. Where do I find the group number or plan code number on my Gateway insurance card?

    • Thanks for your comment, Leslie. While your best bet is to call the Gateway member services number for the most accurate information, I can tell you that the group number should be clearly identified on your ID card (e.g., Group #: 12345678). On CDPHP ID cards, it’s located in the lower left-hand corner. Hope this helps!


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