The problem is that some medical needs are unpredictable. “No one says, ‘I’m planning to get cancer next year,’” said Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for the Patient Advocate Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps people with serious illnesses.
Still, Donovan said, workers should at least try to estimate what they know they’ll spend money on before selecting a plan, like prescriptions they take regularly or treatments they expect to schedule. “Gamble with what you know,” she said.
Check whether your plan will still cover your specific prescriptions and whether your doctor and hospital will remain in your covered network — where costs are lower — for the coming year and call to verify it. “Online directories are notorious for being inaccurate,” Donovan said.
Also, if you’re married, consider whether a spouse’s health plan may be less costly, she said.
If you do choose a high-deductible plan, try to put as much money as you can into an HSA, Donovan said. If you don’t use it, you can keep the money and may even invest it for care in the future. And money in an HSA can be used to pay for children’s care, even if they are covered by a different health insurance plan, Donovan said.
At a minimum, Rae said, it’s a good idea to contribute the money you save on premiums by switching to a high-deductible plan.
Another money-saving option to consider: Many employers will offer a premium discount, or contribute extra money to a health savings account, if workers agree to take a health assessment or screening. The idea is that identifying factors like smoking or high blood sugar can help people get treatment and avoid developing health problems that are more serious and costly to treat.
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