Trying to determine your annual health care costs? There are several pieces of the cost puzzle you should take into account, including your premiums, deductible, coinsurance, and copay. Below is an explanation of each and examples that show how people use them to pay for health care. For details on your plan’s out-of-pocket costs and the services covered, check the Summary of Benefits and Coverage, which is included in your enrollment materials.
What is a premium? Premiums are regular payments to keep your health care plan active. Higher premiums usually mean lower deductibles. An example of how it works: Trisha, 57, plans on devoting herself to her three grandchildren after she retires. Knowing she’ll need to keep up her energy, she just signed up for a different health care plan at work. The plan premium, or cost of coverage, will be taken out of her paychecks. Even though her new plan has higher premiums, the deductible and copays will be lower. That’s important since Trisha promised her grown children she’d be more diligent about her own health. Her new plan will keep out-of-pocket costs predictable and manageable because as a former smoker with breathing problems, she needs to see doctors and specialists regularly. It’ll be a while before Trisha retires and becomes a full-time Grammy. In the meantime, she’s saving money, listening to her doctors and enjoying time with her family on weekends.
What is a deductible? A deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket for covered services before your health plan kicks in. An example of how it works: Courtney, 43, is a single lawyer who just bought her first home, a condo in Midtown Atlanta. She loves that her building has a gym and pool because she likes to stay in shape. When she felt a lump in her breast during a self-exam, she immediately had it checked out. Thankfully, doctors told her it was benign, but she’ll need to undergo a lumpectomy to have it removed. Courtney will pay out of pocket for the procedure until she meets her $1,500 deductible, the amount she pays for covered services before her health plan contributes. After that, she’ll pay 20 percent of any costs for the rest of the year because her hospital and doctor are in-network. In the event she has more medical expenses this year, it’s good to know she’ll max out the deductible right away so she won’t have to pay full price.
What is coinsurance? Coinsurance is the percentage of the bill you pay after you meet your deductible.
An example of how it works: Ben, 28, is a security expert living in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two small boys. Their 3-year-old recently fell at the playground and broke his arm. The family maxed out their deductible already, so Ben will be responsible for only a portion of the costs or the coinsurance billed for the procedure to reset and cast the break. With his 20 percent coinsurance, he’ll end up paying a few hundred dollars for the hospital visit. His health plan will pay the remaining portion: In Ben’s case, 80 percent. Find out how hospital plans can help you cover costs before you meet your
What is a copay? Copays are flat fees for certain visits.
By learning how premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copays work, you can better understand your health care cost.