In recent years, enrollment has grown steadily in high deductible health plans (HDHPs), which typically offer lower premiums than traditional copayment-based plans. 

In fact, a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control indicates HDHP membership at more than 40 percent of insured adults.   

People considering their health coverage options may be hesitant to enroll in an HDHP because of the annual deductibles, which can start at $1,350 for a single policy and $2,700 for a family policy.  However, depending on the HDHP, many of them cover preventive services outside of the deductible.  

HDHPs can be a great value for the cost of coverage.  There are many ways to plan and prepare for the financial outlay of the deductible.  Here are five things people can do to get the most out of their high-deductible health plan. 

  1. Set up a Health Savings Account (HSA).  An HSA is a tax-free medical savings account that you can set up and contribute tax-free dollars into.  Some HSA accounts allow the account holder to choose different funds, much like a 401k account.  Withdrawals are tax-free as long as you are using the funds for unreimbursed medical expenses, such as when you’re paying out-of-pocket for services before you’ve met your plan deductible.  Read more on HSAs here. 
  1. Don’t forego preventive care.  Although your plan has a deductible, all HDHP plans – more than likely any plan you’ll buy in New York state – cover annual wellness visits and preventive care (such as required immunizations) with no cost share.  
  1. Use generic alternative medications whenever you can. Longstanding medications, such as antibiotics, prescription-strength Motrin® and others, all have generic equivalents or alternatives.  For example, the acid-reflux medication omeprazole costs just over $6 per monthly prescription.  Its brand name – Nexium – costs more than $250 per month.  If you’re taking a brand name medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about switching to a generic medication that’s covered by your plan. 
  1. Use free-standing laboratories or ambulatory surgery centers.  When your doctor recommends a health care service, like a chest X-ray or MRI, where you go could save you money.  In most cases, a freestanding facility provides the same services as a hospital, but typically for a lower cost. For some examples, check out our comparisons. 
  1. Take advantage of wellness discounts and programs.  Many health plans include some sort of wellness benefit or program as part of the benefits package.  For example, Independent Health offers FitWorks Rewards as part of its small group and individual health plans.  Many large employer groups offer FitWorks Prime. Members may also be able to choose our nutrition benefit through Tops Friendly Markets.  Wellness and physical activity are key to staying healthy, so using your health plan’s extra services and benefits can augment your preventive care and keep your personal health care expenses lower. 

As with any decision, opting to enroll into an HDHP is a personal one and should not be based on premiums alone.  Having an HDHP means taking more control and involvement in your own care.  Following these simple tips above can help HDHP members get the full value and advantage out of HDHPs and minimizing the impact of the upfront deductibles.