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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guest Post: "Why I Chose a High Deductible Health Plan" by Mandy Mullinix

I consider starting a Health Savings Account (HSA) in conjunction with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) to be one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made.

I came to Thomas Nelson in August 2007 after five years of working at a small-business that unfortunately did not have a large enough pool of workers to get good health insurance at a competitive price. As a result, I watched my health insurance premiums and co-pays increase dramatically year after year. By early 2007, I was paying close to $100 a week (or $5,200 annually) just for bare-bones coverage that came saddled with huge out of pockets costs.

My “a-ha” moment came that year when I actually sat down and read an Explanation of Benefits letter and saw just how little my insurance at the time paid my doctor. My son had been for a normal visit for some routine kid-sickness he had at the time. He didn’t have an x-ray, blood work or even an injection. It was a simple doctor visit and we received a script for an antibiotic. I remember paying the doctor a $35 co-pay, so you can imagine my shock when I read the EOB and saw all the insurance had left to kick in was $9.00. We made few visits to the doctor in 2007, which is a wonderful blessing. However, when you realize I paid in well over $5000 to receive maybe just $100 in actual benefits, you don’t have to be a mathematician to see why I started looking for an alternative to a traditional PPO plan.

I had read online about HSAs and thought that would be a good idea for me. I equated it to how I shopped for car insurance. I pay less in premiums if I agree to a higher deductible. The trick with it though is to actually save the difference for the deductible should anything happen (not pocket it, as is tempting). Unfortunately, a HSA/HDHP was not offered at my former job, but I started my HSA as soon as I was eligible for benefits here and haven’t looked back.

I’m going on my fourth year now in the plan and haven’t had any difficulties. My initial concern was how doctor’s offices would handle the billing/fee payment part (since most want your co-pay money upfront). I shouldn’t have worried. They all know they have to submit to my insurance first, then send me a bill for my portion which I pay with my HSA debit card. The exception to this is my dermatologist’s office. They somehow know up front what charges I am responsible for, but that’s even easier because I simply pay before I leave and there is no bill needed. Prescriptions work the same way. I drop them off along with my insurance card, then when it’s ready I pay for it with the HSA debit card. My pharmacist knows I’m in this plan and lets me know if a certain medicine is going to be expensive. If it is, we call the doctor and see if there is a lower priced alternative. The trick to making this plan work for you is to communicate your participation to both your doctor and pharmacist.

In the past three years, I’ve saved significantly more than I paid for medical claims. And since the money in my account rolls forward, I can use it for future expenses I may incur.

Mandy works as a Marketing Coordinator in trade book Publishing. She is a single mother and sole support of her family. That she's made the High Deductible Plan and Health Savings Account program work for her shows that most any family can benefit from this program. - Jim Thomason -

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