Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Playing Along at Home

It's that time of year again, where millions of employees begin to make their health insurance choices for the following year. As I mentioned at this time last year, our family's benefits come to us courtesy of the Fortune 500 company which employs my better half. And once again, in addition to the usual co-pay type plans, the company is pushing HSA-compliant High Deductible Plans. Unlike last year, however, the folks in HR (or at least those advising them) have finally "gotten it," and have done a pretty good job.
To wit: they've put together a menu of choices (hence the over-used term "cafeteria plan") whose centerpiece is the HSA. And they've done a masterful job of selling it, as well. You may recall that, last year, the HSA was clearly an aferthought, with no effort made to make it the least bit attractive. For an extremely modest premium savings, one was presented with an over-the-top out-of-pocket exposure. There was little (if any) effort made to explain the myriad benefits accruing to HSA's, perhaps because most of these were absent from last year's model.
But what a difference a year makes. Several weeks ago, for example (and well before "election time") we received a colorful, interesting, and helpful guide to HDHP/HSA's, with practical, real-world examples (which reflected real-life numbers, as well). I especially appreciated the approach: it closely tracked my own HSA sales shpiel. It was also pretty fair to the other models, explaining differences in out-of-pocket, savings and claims issues.
I'm still not thrilled with the configuration: a high deductible, yes, but they've kept the 80/20 coinsurance "corridor" in place, which I think unnecessarily complicates the product. They have priced it appropriately, though: folks who choose the HSA route pay the least in additional premium contributions. For our family, that represents $800 (minimum) annual savings versus a co-pay plan. The deductible is modest: $1200 for singles, $2400 for families. That's actually towards the low end of the deductible choice spectrum, so it's a great "introductory" program for folks who are unfamiliar with the concept.
The powers that be at the home office must be closet IB readers, because they obviously understand that rate increases on HDHP's are substantially lower than their co-pay cousins. To that end, they've offered a deal that would be difficult to refuse, even if one were so inclined: in addition to the premium break, they're "seeding" employees' HSA's with real, up-front, cash money: $400 for individuals, $800 for families. Wow!
We've also written about the new product trend towards preventive care. To that end, the carrier-of-choice (one with which I'm very familiar, and have had good experience) covers routine, preventive items (e.g. cancer screenings, vaccines, etc) at 100%, regardless of whether or not the deductible has been met. In fact, that same benefit applies to folks in co-pay plans, as well. We elected to contribute the max to the loss-fund (Health Savings Account), based on previous years' usage. It's a great deal, of course: if we end up not using it all, it rolls over (one of the great things about HSA plans).
In the event, we're looking forward to being a part of the new health insurance evolution, and I'll be sharing our experiences with it throughout the coming year. Cheers!
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