Don't Waste Your Money: Understand your health plan - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Don't Waste Your Money: Understand your health plan

(WTOL) – Traditional health plans are rapidly disappearing as companies look for ways to reduce health care costs. As a result, more than 11 million Americans have signed up for high deductible health plans that come with downsides.

More and more people have switched to high deductible health plans this year as their employers look to save money on health insurance. While these new plans can be money savers, one woman learned they need to be monitored much closer than traditional health plans.

Laura Nickell thought her new high deductible health plan would be a money saver with monthly premiums much lower than in the past. That was until she needed serious medical care.

"We paid our $3,000 deductible and after that they started sending us bills for 20 percent," explained Nickell.

Even after paying her deductible, Nickell still was receiving bills.

"I had over 30 claims at 20 percent. So it was $20, $20, $20," said Nickell.

As with most high deductible health plans, Nickell was supposed to pay with her own money from a health savings account, until her bills hit $3,000. Then insurance was supposed to kick in and help.

"And the deal was it was supposed to be paid 100 percent after that," said Nickell.

It was not.

Nickell said it took multiple phone calls to her insurance company to convince them she should have full coverage at that point.  

More bills, even after meeting a deductible, has become a growing complaint for people with these health plans.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, in recent reports on the downsides of high deductible plans, said enrollees are often promised 100 percent coverage on preventive care, such as annual exams. However, what is considered "preventive" is open to interpretation. Some plans still charge 20 percent after meeting a deductible. Going out of a network can result in huge co-payments. If a family is enrolled, full coverage may not kick in at $2,500; the family may have to meet a family maximum of $5,000 out of pocket.

Nickell recommends reading and understanding a new health plan so incorrect charges can be caught when they happen.

These high deductible health plans can be big money savers, especially for those who are young and healthy. However, critics suggested if a family has serious medical issues, it may want to consider staying with a more traditional plan if affordable. Unfortunately, traditional premiums are rising sharply.

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