Making Smart Choices with Your High-Deductible Health Plan
Posted Jan 06 2011 4:53pm
Happy New Year! For those of you that just signed
up for a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), welcome to the group of 22
million other people that are already enrolled in these type of plans.
So now that you signed up for a high-deductible health-insurance plan next comes the
hard part: making smart decisions about your health care spending since you're now
responsible for more upfront out-of-pocket expenses.
High deductible health plans typically have significantly lower premiums, but much
higher deductibles, than other plans. For 2011, high-deductible plans will have a
minimum annual deductible of $1,200 for an individual and $2,400 for a family, according
to the Internal Revenue Service. The maximum out-of-pocket limits for an individual
in network is $5,950 and $11,900 for a family.
The good news is that under the new health-care law, many more high-deductible plans
now cover preventive care, such as annual checkups and recommended immunizations,
as well as typical tests including mammograms and colon-cancer screenings. The best
way to maximize your dollars using a high-deductible health plan is to fully understand
what's covered by the plan and what is applied to your high deductible.
As far as expenses that are out-of-pocket, there are a number of ways to maximize
your money. Of course, the obvious one is to take better control of your health by
eating well and exercising so you end up having to go to the doctor less often. Here
are some useful tips to help you make your health care dollars go further.
Consider using a cheaper, generic version of
a brand-name drug when appropriate. Be sure to talk with your doctor about less
expensive generic alternatives that provide you with the same results.
Talk to your doctor about the costs of a recommended
treatment and any alternatives. Sometimes there are cheaper alternatives that that
doctors don’t always bring up because they think your health plan covers all the costs.
One of the biggest savings can come from using
the health savings accounts offered with many high-deductible plans. You contribute
to these accounts with pretax dollars and use the money, tax-free, to pay for out-of-pocket
medical expenses. Unused money can be carried over into future years.
If possible try to use urgent care centers rather
than Emergency Rooms. This can save you hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars.
Try to stay in-network. Providers in-network
can be a lot less expensive. If you go out of network sometimes you can offer to pay
cash for services and receive up to 50% discount. Be aware that if you choose to pay
cash, this medical expense will not be applied to your deductible.