With health care costs rising at untenable rates, nearly everyone -- individuals, employers insurers -- wants ways to save money. And one of them is with insurance plans that, at a glance, look less expensive.

Don’t Be Fooled: ‘Some ‘Cheaper’ Health Plans Have Surprising Costs’

With health care costs rising at untenable rates, nearly everyone — individuals, employers insurers — wants ways to save money. And one of them is with insurance plans that, at a glance, look less expensive.

NPR reports on these insurance plans with lower premiums and explains how some can carry unexpected costs:

“One health plan from a well-known insurer promises lower premiums — but warns that consumers may need to file their own claims and negotiate over charges from hospitals and doctors. Another does away with annual deductibles — but requires policyholders to pay extra if they need certain surgeries and procedures.”

“Premiums for many of these plans, which are sold outside the exchanges set up under Affordable Care Act, tend to be 15 to 30 percent lower than conventional offerings, but they put a larger burden on consumers to be savvy shoppers. The offerings tap into a common underlying frustration.”

However, plans of this variety “could leave patients with huge costs in a system in which it is extremely difficult for a patient to be a smart shopper — in part, because they have little negotiating power against big hospital systems and partly because illness is often urgent and unanticipated.”

The report quotes Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute: “If these alternative plans prompt doctors and hospitals to lower prices, “then that is worth taking a closer look. But if it’s simply another flavor of shifting more risk to employees, I don’t think in the long term, that’s going to bend the cost curve.”

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