High-deductible insurance plans on the rise

By Megg Mueller on December 15th, 2010

Pouring over the health insurance forms my company issued this month, I begin to consider something I never before would have given even a second look: a high-deductible health insurance plan. As open enrollment is happening for anyone with a group health insurance plan, these once-unthinkable plans are starting to gain in popularity.

Why is everyone taking a second look at high-deductible plans?

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that in the last four years the number of people choosing plans with deductibles of at least $1,000 has grown to almost 20 million. Why are people choosing such high rates? It's simple: Because with these super-high deductibles, up to $10,000 in some plans, people are paying very low premiums. My company is even offering zero contribution for employee-only, high-deductible plans.

As companies and individuals look to these plans to save money, doctors are concerned people will put off getting needed treatment because they will have to pay out of pocket until that high deductible is met. A UCLA study showed 504,000 of the 3 million people in California had put off seeing the doctor and they cited costs as the main reason.

How high-deductable plans are attractive

Routine medical care has been the easiest thing to cut to avoid paying high health insurance deductibles, but starting Jan. 1, new health care laws require health insurance plans to cover many preventative care procedures and screenings. This factor alone could encourage people who are generally healthy to take another look at high-deductible plans.

Another factor is the health savings account contribution employers are now making. While not all employers contribute to these pre-tax accounts that you can use to pay for qualified medical expenses, some do; my company is offering a 50 percent match for funds I deposit, up to $500 a year. And the money stays in this account year after year if I don't use it.

While I haven't made my final decision (I go to the doctor regularly and take maintenance medications) the zero-premium and matching funds are making high-deductible health insurance worth a second look.



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