As medical health insurance premiums spiral upward, employers are shifting these costs to their workers by means of consumer-directed health plans. Nearly a third of large and midsize companies now offer high-deductible health plans coupled with a health checking account or health reimbursement plan, according to a recently available Watson Wyatt Worldwide and National Business Group on Health survey. That is more than doubly many employers as in 2005.
These programs get employees more involved with healthcare decision making-whether workers enjoy it or not. A March survey of 10,000 U.S. workers by the staffing and consulting firm Hudson showed employees have distinctly mixed feelings about health savings accounts, with only 37 percent of workers having a good opinion of these and the others either unfavorable or unsure.
Here are a few ways to make the very best of a consumer-directed health plan:
Learn just as much as you can . Workers with consumer-directed health plans are usually expected to purchase the first thousands of dollars of healthcare expenses but are often covered after that. For those who have a high-deductible health plan with a deductible of at least $1,050 for self-coverage or $2,100 for family coverage, you meet the criteria to take part in a health checking account where you deposit money on a tax-free basis for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses. More info about establishing a health checking account is available from the Treasury Department website; select health savings accounts.
Ask questions . Find out how much you will be in charge of paying out of your pocket. Ask your employer which procedures will be covered once you reach the deductible. Know what types of catastrophic care are given for. The Watson Wyatt study discovered that to achieve cost benefits, high-deductible plans should be coupled with other practices that consider provider quality, concentrate on improving the fitness of workers, depend on data and hard evidence, and encourage the correct usage of medical services. So, discover what services your employer provides, and benefit from them.
Take inventory . Employees with high-deductible health plans are less content with their health plan than people that have comprehensive insurance and so are more likely in order to avoid or delay needed care, according to a 2005 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Commonwealth Fund. Don’t allow yourself fall in to the trap of avoiding care. Take inventory of your individual health situation, suggests Wayne Gattinella, CEO of WebMD. List any conditions you will have, and take a genealogy to get hints of health problem areas ahead.
Plan ahead . Consider, “What do I expect the expense of my healthcare should be? And just how much do I have to start saving today for that time with time?” advises Gattinella. “A health checking account is actually the healthcare exact carbon copy of a 401(k).” Much like planning retirement, the target is to calculate what your own future healthcare needs will tend to be and make sure which you have enough cash in your health savings account to take care of any conditions that arise.
Can get on the net. Ideally, employees with consumer-directed health plans could have upfront information about the product quality and price of the health care they wish to receive. If your employer doesn’t present you with detailed information, you need to research specific topics online. “The medical literature and the net have a good amount of studies on specific topics,” says Alan Garber, director of the guts for Health Policy at Stanford University. “The very best of these studies can provide patients an excellent idea about if the treatment their doctor recommends is a wonderful usage of their money.” But ensure that you get your details from a trusted source. Garber recommends independent groups just like the Cochrane Collaborationand Consumers Union. Of course, there is absolutely no replacement for the diagnosis of your individual physician, nevertheless, you can read up about diseases and conditions at the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. News.