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High-deductible health plans can cost you

High deductible health plans can sound good until

High deductible health plans can sound good until you have to come up with the $1,500 or $7,500 in cash, experts say. Credit: iStockphoto by Getty Images

High deductible health plans were billed as the next big thing in health care, with promises of huge savings for consumers willing to trade a high deductible for a lower premium. Mostly that’s been true — for those who are healthy.

“From what I’m seeing from my clients, there aren’t big savings,” says Leslie Tayne, an attorney in Melville, specializing in debt.

A deductible of $1,500 or so sounds good, but “Are you able to come up with that money with a blink of an eye?” asks Tayne, who says many turn to credit cards. “Research shows that people with these high deductible plans have more of a struggle paying off their medical bills compared to people with lower deductible plans.”

High deductible plans are far from simple. Here’s what you need to know.

Evaluate your situation. “Review your annual medical expenses. If you make infrequent trips to the doctor and have the occasional prescription, you’ll be better off with a HDHP,” says Adam Marley, a benefits consultant with Insurance Specialists in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Pair a HDHP with a Health Savings Account. Participate in a HSA to not only save money on your monthly premiums, but also by making tax-exempt contributions through your paychecks. The HSA funds can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses while satisfying the HDHP’s deductible, says Nicky Brown, vice president of compliance services at Conexis in Irving, Texas.

Shop smart. Just like shopping for flights and hotels, there are significant discrepancies in the costs of prescription drugs between pharmacies and medical services at doctor’s offices and hospitals. Take advantage of insurer’s tools to help find the lowest cost services and prescriptions.

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