A: There are thousands of different health plans, all with different variables and I can't be there to analyze each one. So what I was trying to do here was share the principal that you may be able to save big by paying less up front and more as you go. The details depend on the individual plan. For example, I analyzed my own health plan options and if I choose the plan where I pay just 20 percent of the cost of my doctor visits, the annual premium is $3,952. But if I choose the plan where I pay 30 percent of my doctor visits the annual premium is just $1,872. Here's the key: the 80/20 plan I was offered does not begin to pay for itself until you have racked up $15,000 in medical costs. That can buy a lot of care. By paying more as we go on the 70/30 plan, we save money all the way up until the $15,000 mark. There's another factor here that you should take into account as well, so I'm glad a reader brought it up. My plan is through my employer, so if I do have a medical disaster that costs a lot of money, I can switch to the more elaborate health plan during the next reenrollment period. I will not have to go more than a year paying the higher percentage as I go. Those who buy insurance individually need to be more careful to choose a plan that fits them now but also hedges for the future.
For people uncomfortable paying a higher percentage of their care as they go because something could go wrong with their health and then they'd have to cover more of it themselves, the other option is to go with a higher deductible. That strategy also buys you a substantial discount, but you are containing your possible risk to just the amount of the higher deductible. It can really work in your favor. For example, I analyzed two identical health plans, one with a $500 deductible, another $1,500. By choosing the higher deductible, participants saved $1,428 a year. That's enough to cover the higher deductible! And if you have a good health year and don't spend that much, it's money in your pocket. BIG money!