Healthcare expenses can take a huge chunk out of any family’s budget so I want to break down how a family can weigh the pros and cons of a traditional health plan vs a high deductible one.
Health Insurance Getting Too Expensive
If I asked you what’s are your biggest expenses each month, what would you say? If you’re like most families, you’d probably mention rent (or mortgage), food, or transportation. And yes, those are huge expenses for the typical family.
However, one of the largest can be healthcare. The crazy thing is how much it can drain from your budget even if you’re a relatively healthy family.
We found out firsthand a few years ago when my husband’s employer had open enrollment. Each year we review the health insurance options and it seemed to us that the costs kept rising. After having kids, we went with the ‘basic’ family plan and the monthly premiums still rose pretty fast. Finally, we hit our limit.
With the latest update, our monthly premiums would pretty much be the same as our mortgage. Considering we only visit the doctors for the girls’ annual well visits, we knew we needed to change things up. We know we’re not the only family dealing with this.
Right now for a family of four, the average monthly premium paid is $833 or $9,996 annually. Add in the costs of the average deductible and you can see what a huge chunk of money health insurance can be.
However, this year when you get ready to review your options during open-enrollment, you may want to look into whether a high deductible health plan is a practical and affordable solution for your family.
How High Deductible Health Plans Work
As the name suggests, a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) comes with a larger deductible than a typical health insurance plan. The appeal for employers and insurance companies to offer this is that you’re taking on more financial responsibility for your health care costs.
The upside for you is that you should see a drop in the monthly premiums. For us, we saw a difference of a few hundred dollars for each month for premiums. Using a $300/month in savings, that’s like an extra $3,600/year that can be used for other financial goals that you may have.
Huge Tax Wins with a Health Savings Accounts
Another reason why a high deductible plan may be appealing for families is the ability to have a Health Savings Account (HSA). It’s an extremely tax-advantaged account that you can use to pay for medical expenses.
If this sounds familiar, it may be because you’ve heard of or used a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). That’s what’s typically offered with the ‘more standard’ health plans. Basically you put money in there before taxes.
We used an FSA for years and it helped us to pay for regular expenses like my glasses and contacts. The problem was making sure we calculated enough to go into the account because if we didn’t use it by the end of the year, we’d lose it.
With a Health Savings Account, however, whatever you don’t use you keep. It can then grow in the account over the years. After saving enough to cover things like the deductible, you may decide to invest a portion to improve growth over the long term.
Making it even better is the fact that your HSA contributions are tax-deductible. Depending on your employer, they may also offer contributions to your HSA. That’s a fantastic bonus!
What really sweetens the deal is that families can contribute up to $6,900 each year, that money grows tax-free, and if we use the money for qualified medical expenses, what we pull out is tax-free.
Sounds amazing, right?
It’s enough to make you want to jump in and switch right now, but a high deductible and HSA may not be the best solution for your family.
The Pros and Cons of High Deductible Health Plans
A high deductible plan sounds great, but there are some costs to consider. With the higher deductible, you need to be aware of what your typical annual expenses would be to make sure you’re coming out ahead.
For example, if you have chronic health issues that require regular visits and perhaps medication, then you’d be paying a lot of money upfront before you hit your deductible and have your insurance cover their portion.
One way you can review your expenses is by using Mint to pull the numbers quickly. You can then easily see how much you’ve paid out of pocket.
When we looked at a few years of expenses, it confirmed that our visits were pretty much limited to annual well-visits (which are covered by HDHP plans), meaning we can save a significant amount of money.
When I spoke to a certified financial planner about what families need to consider, he pointed out families should also be aware of their out of pocket maximums with the plan they are looking into.
You want to have enough stashed away (either with your general savings or with your HSA) to cover those expenses.
A relative of mine recently had a procedure done. Even with insurance, her portion came out to be $3,000!
Thankfully she has some savings she can tap into, but still, that’s quite a bit of money.
So please run the numbers to make sure you could absorb a medical problem, especially during that first year of switching plans.
Choose the Best Plan for Your Family
So after weighing the costs and benefits, took the leap and switched over to a high deductible health plan and opened an HSA. Years later, we feel it was the best decision for our situation.
I hope you now have a better understanding of your options when it comes to health insurance. Having that knowledge can assist you in making the best decision for your family and finances.
I’d love to hear from you – what plan are using now? Do you have any plans on switching?