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Experts: Don't let pricey health insurance costs hurt you

Posted November 28

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— Many people choose to put off treatments for diseases and illnesses because of their high-deductible insurance plans -- but doing so can be risky.

"My high-deductible plan almost caused me not to have the surgery that discovered my cancer," said Monique Dow, a survivor.

More people like Dow are signing up for high-deductible health insurance plans. Some of them are swayed by the lower monthly premiums, but, for others, high-deductible healthcare plans are their only choice.

Faced with steep healthcare costs, many companies are embracing these plans because they push more of the cost onto employees. In fact, a quarter of all employers offering insurance now only have plans with high deductibles.

Consumer Reports warns that these plans have a real downside -- the out-of-pocket costs. Before employer insurance kicks in, individuals have to pay an average of nearly $2,300 a year, and families have to pay more than $4,000. Those prices can really set you back.

“People are finding the deductibles so unaffordable that they’re putting off care or they’re not getting care at all," said Donna Rosato, a money editor at Consumer Reports. "They’re not filling prescriptions. They’re not going to the doctor.”

That's almost what Dow did. Her only insurance option carried a $6,000 deductible, so she put off a surgery her doctor recommended and almost didn’t discover that she had cancer.

“It was scary to me that I almost didn’t have the surgery to just know what was growing inside my body, because I knew it would be a lot of money," said Dow.

Even if you're facing a high-deductible plan, there are ways to get the care you need.

Consumer Reports suggests using the tool on your insurance company’s website to check prices of treatments and procedures, as there can be enormous differences between providers.

“Also consider opening a health savings account," said Rosato. "That’s an account where you put in pre-tax dollars which you can use to pay your deductible and other qualified healthcare expenses. If you don’t spend it all this year, you can use it next year, too.”

Experts also say users should be aware that a lot of preventative health services such as colonoscopies and vaccinations are free and don’t count toward deductibles.

Lastly, if you're skipping out on medical care because of the out-of-pocket costs, Consumer Reports recommends talking to your doctor. Doctors can often help people struggling with finances find less expensive prescriptions, diagnostic tests and other health services.

For more information, check out Consumer Reports' online guide, “How to Survive a High-Deductible Health Plan."

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  • Elizabeth Franklin Nov 29, 10:08 a.m.
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    Also, the hospitals that have provided major services to me have offered payment plans for large expenses such as surgery, cancer treatments, and inpatient stays. Spreading the cost over 18 months has made these large expenses affordable. I'm able to make the payments using money I accumulate over time in my HSA through payroll deductions.