Help!!! Do You Think Families Benefit From HDHP/HSA Plans?

It’s open enrollment time in a couple of weeks.  We got notification that our plans and premiums aren’t changing at all for 2012.  No increases in premiums, and they’re actually lowering co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums.  This is way against the trend of what most people are seeing, but keep in mind that they raised premiums on average of 30% last year and doubled co-pays, and I think the backlash was severe enough that they realized another increase might incite a revolt.

We briefly considered the High Deductible (HDHP) plan for 2011, but we ended up going with a traditional plan due to the fact that we knew we were having a baby and would require the use of quite a bit of insurance.  The estimates I ran last year showed that the potential savings of using the HDHP was only a couple of hundred dollars, where if anything went wrong, the risk was a lot higher.

Since we’re not planning on any babies in 2012 and since the four of us are relatively healthy, a ‘standard’ year of healthcare costs could save us quite a bit of money by switching to the HDHP.

I looked at what we’ve typically done in terms of doctor visits and prescriptions to estimate what our costs would be.

The HDHP plan costs about $3,600 less in premiums than the traditional plan.  The first $3,750 of an HDHP plan is paid out of pocket, after which 80% is paid by the plan and 20% is required out of pocket.  A ‘normal’ year (averaging routine visits and such for 2009-2011) would have resulted in costs between $1,000 and $2,000.  So, if next year was any sort of ‘typical year’, we could save upwards of $2,000.

The downside is that there’s still risk.  Any type of catastrophic event or unexpected sickness that would require a hospital stay would most likely cancel out savings, and could even push us into a costlier situation.  However, the maximum family out of pocket is $6,000 (versus $10,000 in 2011) so that risk is severely limited.

I was curious if any other families used the HDHP/HSA plans, and what your experiences were.  If you don’t know personally, I would love if you could ask around to see what experiences people might have.

It’s a big decision and I know my readers will be able to help provide input.  Thanks very much in advance!