What is a Healthcare Deductible?

by Bill Herrfeldt ; Updated July 27, 2017

A health care insurance deductible, or co-payment, is the amount of your out-of-pocket expenses at the time you receive medical services or medication. You will find information about co-payments or deductibles in both your policy and on your health insurance card. Deductibles are one way insurance companies share the costs of health care with you. Also, they say that deductibles make it possible for them to offer health care coverage that you can afford.

Function

Health insurance companies view deductibles very positively for another reason. If you must pay $25 each time you make an appointment with your doctor, you will probably think twice about going for a simple cold. They commonly view deductibles as a way to lower costs by discouraging people from using health services. However, in some cases, people will avoid seeing a doctor when they truly need medical attention.

Types

The amount of your deductible largely depends on your type of plan, either a fee-for-service plan or a managed health plan. Most Americans think of fee-for-service plans as traditional health and their deductibles are probably higher than for the other. While they pay higher deductibles, they also will benefit from increased options. Many companies offer managed care health plans to both save costs and reduce deductibles.

Considerations

Only you can decide if a fee-for-service plan or a managed health plan is best for you, recognizing that the deductibles will be higher if the former is chosen. In a fee-for-service plan, you will be able to see the doctor of your choice. With a managed health plan, you will be restricted to those doctors who have been signed with the plan. In addition, you must receive a referral from your general practitioner before seeing a specialist. To many people, they would rather pay a higher deductible than submit to those rules.

Effects

The ever-growing premiums and the deductibles associated with health care in America has led to almost 50 million people going without it. This has caused those without health care insurance to use the system when they have a health problem, regardless of whether they can pay for it. This has caused both premiums and deductibles to rise, thus making health care coverage less affordable to more people.

Prevention/Solution

Regardless of the type of plan you have, the cost of health care continues to rise much faster than inflation. Soon, it will be out of financial reach for more people. This situation is all the more disheartening because the life-expectancy of Americans is lower than many other countries, a factor in determining the quality of the country's health care system. Therefore, regardless of the size of your deductible, you should be cautious in using the system.

About the Author

Bill Herrfeldt specializes in finance, sports and the needs of retiring people, and has been published in the national edition of "Erickson Tribune," the "Washington Post" and the "Arizona Republic." He graduated from the University of Louisville.