The Health Insurance Term to Know in 2024

Stacy Edgar
Dec 29, 2023

Here’s the health insurance term you need to know to start your year off right: accumulators.

Accumulators commonly refer to your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum (OOP). Why does it matter? Imagine taking medication for a chronic condition, feeling relief from the symptoms, and... facing a surprise medical bill. That's the reality for some patients, thanks to this little-known term. 

In this article, we demystify this healthcare lingo and equip you with knowledge to navigate your insurance plan.

What is an accumulator?

An accumulator is a running tally of your out-of-pocket spending, such as copays, coinsurance, and other costs, excluding your monthly premium. These expenses count toward both your deductible and out-of-pocket (OOP) maximum.

Your deductible is the amount you must pay before your insurance kicks in.

How does it work? Suppose you land in the ER and have a $1,000 bill. Your health plan deductible is $500 and 10% co-insurance for ER visits. Your portion of the bill is: 

$500 (your deductible)

+ 10% of the remainder of the bill ($50)

= $550 total bill. [Insurance will pay the remaining $450]

Your out-of-pocket maximum is the most you'll pay for medical services during a plan year.

Now, say your out-of-pocket maximum is $2,000. Once you’ve spent $2,000 in medical costs, insurance typically covers 100% of the cost. For example, you land in the ER and have a $50,000 bill. Your health plan deductible is $500 and 10% co-insurance for ER visits. Your portion of the bill is: 

$500 (your deductible)

+10% of the remainder of the bill ($5,000) 

Which brings the total cost to $5,500 

But your OOP = $2,000

= $2,000 total bill [Insurance will pay the remaining $48,000]

How do you know what costs will count to your accumulator totals? 

Here's the twist: not all costs count to your accumulators. For example, if you have an EPO or HMO plan, costs associated with seeing an out-of-network healthcare provider do not typically count toward your accumulator totals. In addition, certain manufacturer assistance programs for medications, like copay coupons, may not count toward your accumulator total.

Your accumulators also reset at the beginning of your health insurance policy year. For most of us, that's January 1st. What happens if you change jobs and change health insurance plans mid-year? Unfortunately, your accumulators reset to $0 (which is why we at Venteur are big proponents of portable health insurance).

So, what do you do? Familiarize yourself with your health plan documents. You typically can find a copy in the member portal of your insurance carrier or on their website. Look for accumulator details in your Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC). Pay special attention to medications. Refer back to it before making major purchases. You can also consult with a professional broker like our team at Venteur.

Why should you care?

Accumulators have enormous financial implications: You could unexpectedly face a surprise medical bill if you’re unfamiliar with how your health insurance plan’s accumulators work. 

But by empowering yourself with information, you can navigate your health insurance confidently. Our team of licensed brokers here at Venteur is always here to help.   

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