Insurance Without The Premium?

To aerospace engineer Cale Stephens, his health insurance policy is a bargain - mostly because he pays no premiums.

"It's been a good plan for us," he said. "Good service."

How's that possible?

He and his wife Patty have chosen what's called a "high-deductible" health plan, offered through their company, Rockwell Collins, CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports.

The basic deal is this; the Stephens pay zero in premiums - but then pay all of the first $2,500 worth of medical expenses every year. That's their deductible. More than three million workers have these policies now as more companies offer them.

You can imagine how this plays out. When workers start paying all the costs, they start making fewer trips to the doctor.

"But now we think, 'gosh, is it worth $100 to go to the doctor?' and we may make the decision not to go," Patty Stephens said.

Still, the nation's pediatricians, including Dr. Julianne Thomas, are wary of high deductibles.

"I'm very concerned," she said.

The Academy of Pediatrics this year warned that "families (with high deductible policies) are likely to delay or avoid seeking care..."

"We know people aren't coming in for regular checks and we think that they are delaying care," Thomas said. "They are waiting longer."

Kimberly and Mike McGuire, who have a high-deductable plan different from Rockwell Collins's, say they've cut back in seeing their doctor. They are saving on costs because they know 6-year-old Sara will need ear surgery this year.

"I think it all boils down to money," Kimberly McGuire said. "Can you afford to go? Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can't."

Back at Rockwell Collins, vice president Ron Kirchenbauer calls the concerns overblown.

"We've seen no evidence that they are avoiding the doctor at all in any of our statistics," Kirchenbauer said. But is he looking?

"We absolutely are looking," he said.

High-deductible polices do pay off for healthy families who don't need the doctor, and the policies do save money for the companies. Everyone else, like the McGuires, has to guess whether the upfront savings on premiums are worth the risk.

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.