Buying insurance coverage helps keep you protected from the full financial fallout of an accident or injury. But even with insurance, you’ll probably still be responsible for some costs when you file a claim.
An insurance deductible is the amount of money the insured party is responsible for at the time of loss or damage: it’s the cost you have to pay before the insurance company pays out its share.
Here’s what you need to know about the different types of insurance deductibles and other insurance-related costs you may face.
What Is a Deductible?
When you buy insurance, you’ll encounter several different costs depending on the type of coverage you’re purchasing. These may include monthly premiums, copays, out-of-pocket maximums, and possibly others.
The vast majority of insurance policies, whether they’re auto, health, or homeowners, carry a deductible. So what is a deductible, and how does it work?
The deductible is a sum of money you, as the insured party, are expected to pay toward a loss. Another way to think about it: It’s the amount the insurance company deducts from the total claim and asks you to pay.
For instance, say you get into a car accident in which you sustain $8,000 worth of damage and you have a $1,000 deductible. When you file your claim, you’ll pay $1,000 toward repairs and the insurance company will cover the remaining $7,000 (or up to whatever limits are laid out in your insurance contract).
Your deductible can be a fixed dollar amount or a percentage, depending on your individual plan and the kind of insurance policy you’re talking about. Homeowners insurance, for instance, is commonly offered with deductibles calculated as a percentage of the property’s total insured value.
It’s important to understand that your deductible is separate from your premium, which is the amount of money you pay each month in order to keep your insurance policy active.
Also remember that you may also be responsible for other insurance-related expenses, like copays or coinsurance, so always read the fine print carefully.
💡 Quick Tip: If you have a mortgage, a homeowners policy may be required by your lender. Surprisingly, unlike auto insurance, there is no legal mandate to carry insurance on your home.
Copay vs Deductible
With certain types of insurance — primarily health insurance products — you may be required to pay a copay each time you go to the doctor’s office or receive a covered service. This copay is separate from your deductible, and, generally, your copay doesn’t count toward your deductible amount.
As with other types of insurance, the health insurance deductible must be paid by the insured person before the insurance company begins its coverage. However, individual health plans may cover certain services, such as regular check-ups, even before the deductible is paid in full.
Here’s an example: Say you twist your ankle and visit your doctor, who orders an MRI. If your copay is $25, you’ll pay $25 at the office before or after you see your physician. If the total cost of the doctor’s care and imaging services is $1,000 and you have a $500 deductible, you may still be responsible for the full $500. Any copays you’ve paid along the way won’t be subtracted from your deductible.
Some plans may carry a coinsurance cost rather than a copay. The two are similar, but not identical. Coinsurance is an amount you pay when you receive a medical service, separate from your deductible. Unlike copays, which are charged at a fixed dollar amount, coinsurance is calculated as a percentage of the total cost of the service. Your plan might even include both copays and coinsurance.
All insurance policies are different, and your individual costs and experience may vary depending on the services you’ve received and the specific coverage you have. You can consult your insurance paperwork or contact your insurer for full details on what’s covered in your plan.
Health insurance policies in particular are subject to federally mandated out-of-pocket maximums. This is the highest total dollar amount you’ll have to pay toward covered healthcare over the course of a single year, including both deductibles and copays.
The out-of-pocket maximum does not include the amount you pay toward your monthly premium, however. Nor does it include out-of-network services or services that your plan expressly does not cover.
For 2023, the out-of-pocket maximum for a Marketplace plan can’t be more than $9,100 for an individual or $18,200 for a family. In 2024, that limit rises to $9,450 for an individual or $18,900 for a family. (The maximum is allowed to be lower, however, so consult your plan paperwork for full details.)
Do You Want a High or Low Deductible?
When shopping for insurance coverage, you’ll likely have a range of options to consider, including varying deductible costs. And when it comes to figuring out whether you want a high or low deductible, the answer is: It depends.
Generally speaking, the lower your deductible, the higher your premium will be and vice versa. This makes sense when you think about it. If you have a low deductible, the insurer will have to pay out a higher amount when you incur a loss. So in exchange for the promise of covering most of the costs when a claim is filed, the company expects you to pay more up front in the form of a higher premium.
While choosing a higher deductible can help you save money over time since your monthly premiums will be lower, it also means you’re assuming more risk. If something happens and costs are incurred, you’ll be responsible for a larger share of those expenses.
On the other hand, choosing a lower deductible means you’ll likely pay a higher premium each month. But you’ll also have less to worry about if you do need to file a claim, since the insurance company will cover more of the costs (assuming that all the damages and expenses are covered under your policy).
As with so many other financial matters, what’s right for you comes down to a number of factors, including your risk tolerance, budget, and even your lifestyle. If you participate in extreme sports, for instance, and are at risk for catastrophic injuries, you might want to pick a health insurance policy with a lower deductible and higher premiums.
Recommended: How Much Is Homeowners Insurance?
Zero-Deductible Insurance: Is It a Thing?
You may see ads for zero-deductible insurance policies and wonder if they’re too good to be true. While zero-deductible insurance policies do exist, they usually carry higher premiums than policies that do carry deductibles, and you may also be responsible for a one-time no-deductible fee or waiver.
Furthermore, some insurance coverages are required by state law to carry a minimum deductible, particularly when it comes to auto insurance.
Before you sign up for any kind of insurance coverage, be sure to read the contract thoroughly to ensure you understand what costs you’re responsible for.
Recommended: What Does Auto Insurance Cover?
Types of Deductibles
There are many different types of insurance policies with deductibles on the market. Common ones include:
• Health insurance deductibles
• Auto insurance deductibles
• Homeowners insurance deductibles
• Renters insurance deductibles
• Life insurance deductibles
The deductible amount varies by type of insurance, company, and plan, among other factors.
💡 Quick Tip: Online insurance tools allow you to personalize your coverage for homeowners, renters, auto, and life insurance — all with zero paperwork.
Purchasing insurance is an important — and sometimes legally mandated — step toward protecting yourself from the high costs of personal accidents, property damages, and medical bills. But most policies involve set costs, including deductibles. This is the portion of the claim the insured party is responsible for paying.
Whether you’re comparison shopping or switching from your current plan, it’s important to understand what your deductible will be. Having a full picture of all the costs involved can help you find coverage that fits your life and finances.
When the unexpected happens, it’s good to know you have a plan to protect your loved ones and your finances. SoFi has teamed up with some of the best insurance companies in the industry to provide members with fast, easy, and reliable insurance.
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