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On the Money: Confronting fresh health insurance deductibles

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2017 file photo, a person looks over a health insurance benefit comparison chart in Georgia. The new year often starts harshly for people with high-deductible health insurance. Many of those deductibles reset Jan. 1, forcing patients to pay thousands of dollars for care before most coverage starts. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2017 file photo, a person looks over a health insurance benefit comparison chart in Georgia. The new year often starts harshly for people with high-deductible health insurance. Many of those deductibles reset Jan. 1, forcing patients to pay thousands of dollars for care before most coverage starts. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The new year often starts harshly for people with high-deductible health insurance.

Many deductibles reset Jan. 1, forcing patients to pay thousands of dollars for care or prescriptions before most insurance coverage starts. Such a financial hit can be brutal for patients with cancer or a chronic condition, some of whom may have just satisfied the previous year’s deductible the month before.

More patients are using tax-exempt health savings accounts to set aside money that can soften this early-year crunch. But there are no simple solutions to erase the problem for those without such accounts or the means to stock them.

However, patient advocates see several ways to get relief. Here are some examples.

KNOW THE COVERAGE

It’s hard to plan for a big expense when you don’t understand your financial exposure.

Patients should know the size of their deductible and what they must pay after satisfying it. Insurance plans can require patients to continue footing a portion of their bill for care until they hit their out-of-pocket maximum for the year.

It’s a good idea to review these requirements annually. Double check the coverage of any regular prescription drugs too, in case that has changed.