How to Save Money on a High-Deductible Health Plan

Savings

How to Save Money on a High-Deductible Health Plan

Health Insurance
Oscar Martinez
By Oscar Martinez
Aug 27, 2019
Older couple looking at a computer trying to figure out how to save on a high deductible health plan

The high-deductible health plan (HDHP) has skyrocketed in popularity—enrollment has increased by nearly 400 percent over the last decade. And it’s for good reason: HDHPs tend to have low premiums, which means you’ll pay considerably less each month for insurance.

There’s no doubt that you may experience some sticker shock at first.

Deductibles can be pricey—at least $1,350 for an individual and $2,700 for a family. But chances are, you won’t end up making a significant dent in it.

Speaking from my own experience, at my company, we’ve found that more than 85 percent of our employees never hit their limit, even when they’re on a more traditional, low-deductible plan. And even if you do, there are plenty of smart saving strategies to use so you come out ahead of the game.

Here are five ways to make the most of your high-deductible health plan.

Take Advantage of All the Freebies:

Many people don’t realize that most preventative care services—such as colonoscopies, mammograms, vaccinations, and annual wellness visits—are covered at no additional cost in HDHP plans. The complete list of free procedures and screenings is online at Healthcare.gov. Use these services because they don’t cost a cent and can ultimately save you money by keeping you healthy.

Another bonus: HDHPs typically cover the cost of prescription drugs that are considered “preventative.” This can include everything from blood pressure medication to antidepressants to birth control pills. Check with your plan for the full list of covered medications.

Save Up to 80% on Your Prescriptions

Invest in a Health Savings Account (HSA):

Consider an HSA similar to a 401(k), but for your health needs. These accounts are available for HDHPs and allow you to set aside tax-free dollars to pay for certain out-of-pocket medical expenses. You can put in up to $3,500 annually for yourself, $7,000 for your family, and, if you’re older than 55, you can also include an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000.

Some companies will even contribute to your HSA: In 2016, the average employer contribution to family-coverage HSAs was about $800. If you can put in the maximum to your HSA, you should, because any balance left over at the end of the year will be carried to the next year.

This can come in handy as a nest-egg for future medical expenses. For example, if you opened an HSA in your 20s when you were single and had minimal health care expenses, you can use that money once you start a family.

Other advantages: HSAs are portable, meaning you can take your account with you if you change health plans or switch jobs, and some accounts allow you to invest this money in certain types of bonds, stocks and mutual funds, allowing you to make more money that you can then use for future health needs.

Even better, you’ll be able to “save” money in your HSA to use when you’re older, and that money will come in handy—a 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need $280,000 to cover health care and medical expenses throughout their retirement, according to Fidelity Investments.

If you end up with low health care costs in retirement, you can use your HSA for nonmedical expenses after age 65 (the only catch is you’ll have to pay income tax on it, just like you would on a withdrawal from a traditional retirement account). If your employer doesn’t offer an HSA or you purchased an HDHP individually, you can open one online or at your bank.

Stay in Network As Much As Possible:

In-network providers typically bill under discounted rates through your insurance company—something you’ll benefit from if you’re paying out of pocket. In comparison, if you go out of network, you’ll be responsible for the full charge.

When you stay in-network, you also cap your out-of-pocket costs sooner. For plans you can buy on the exchange, for example, the out-of-pocket maximum is $7,150 for individual coverage and $14,300 for family plans. After that, your insurer must pay 100 percent of in-network costs. But if you’re out of network, the cap is usually much higher.

Mind the Calendar:

If you find that you need an expensive medical test or procedure that will bring you close to your deductible, try to schedule it as early in the year as possible. That way, if you need more medical care later that year, insurance will cover the cost.

Don’t Be Afraid to Comparison Shop:

If you’re facing a hefty deductible, it’s worth it to shop for the best price, just as you would a car or a couch.

Your health insurance website is a good place to start, as many offer cost-estimator tools that list what you’ll pay different providers for, say, an MRI or surgery. People who used their health insurer’s tool to pinpoint costs for sleep studies and imaging tests spent about 12 percent less, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

You can also go to Healthcare Bluebook or Clear Health Costs to find local pricing.

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But be careful if you think you need to go to an emergency room or standalone emergency clinic. They’re really good marketers and advertise no waiting times, but the prices their doctors’ charge (many of whom are out of network) reflect that. You might have to foot a bill for thousands of dollars. Always check with your insurance first.

Finally, no matter if you have a high deductible health plan or a regular health plan, comparison shopping for your prescription medications is a must. Tools like RxSaver make it easy to see the prices for different prescriptions in your area, so you can always make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez has been in human resources for 14 years, spending the last seven as a benefits manager for an organization with more than 20,000 employees. Throughout his career, he’s been a talent acquisition manager, area employment manager and a benefits communications manager. He has a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s University and an MBA from Capella University.

The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.