Question: I am very confused by the deductibles on my family’s health insurance. Does the whole family meet the deductible or just one person?
Answer: I don’t blame you for being confused. There are differences in how health plans work for families versus individuals. The main difference between individual and family coverage is how the annual deductible is computed.
Individual Deductible Family Plans: Some family insurance has separate deductibles for each individual and then a family deductible limit. For example. a plan might have a $5000 deductible for each family member and a $10,000 deductible limit for the whole family. What that means is that any given individual in the family must reach $5000 in covered medical expenses before the health plan begins to pay. Also, let’s say that this family has 3 individual members and that the total in family expenses exceeds $10,000, from this point on through the end of that calendar year all family members will have been deemed to have met their deductible. Statistically, only one family member usually has major medical expenses in a given year, so the individual deductible plan is generally recommended.
Aggregate Deductible Family Plans: Some family health plans have one deductible for the whole family. For instance, a plan might have a $10,000 deductible for the family and each family member’s covered medical expenses are combined to meet the $10,000 family deductible. Statistically, only one family member usually has major medical expenses in a given year, so the $10,000 family aggregate deductible is usually harder to reach. We generally recommend family health plans with this type of family deductible, but there are situations when an aggregate deductible is preferable, for instance a large family would have a greater chance of meeting the family deductible with no single individual accounting for $5,000.