Today's consumer-driven health plans typically require deductibles of $1,000 to $2,000 for individual coverage and $2,000 to $4,000 for family coverage, after premiums, before the insurance policy kicks in. Many policies also require coinsurance payments after deductibles are met, and patients seeking care out of network face steep charges. Now, as millions of workers enter open-enrollment season to choose next year's health insurance benefits, many will consider high-deductible policies for the first time. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 5 percent of large employers offered such policies in 2003; this year, 20 percent did, and more will do so next year.
For workers who've seen premiums jump sharply for HMOs, PPOs and point-of-service offerings, the lure of lower premiums and fewer restrictions on provider selection can be tantalizing. But those opting for such insurance "should expect to have less health coverage," says Karen Pollitz, project director at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute.