Getting sick or needing medical care for your kids is bad enough, but healthcare costs can add even more stress to an illness or injury. Healthcare is the leading cause of bankruptcy for Americans; 56 million people struggle to pay the costs of healthcare every year.
Health insurance can help protect you and your family from the high costs of health care. Here are some ways to lower your healthcare costs and save money on your health insurance so you can navigate your next medical issue with a little less financial stress.
Choose Deductibles Carefully
How healthy is your family and how often do you go to the doctor? If your family is healthy and doesn’t visit the doctor too often, a high-deductible plan may help you save hundreds of dollars per month in lower premiums. The flip side to paying lower monthly premiums, however, is paying more in deductibles if you do have to get medical care for an accident, illness, or injury.
A high-deductible plan may not be the right choice for you, however, if you or your family have chronic health conditions or if you find yourself at the doctor’s office regularly. A high-deductible plan also may not be right for you if you can’t afford your higher deductible amounts.
To maximize the benefits of a higher deductible plan, use the money you save on premiums to invest in a HSA (health savings account) so you have funds available for out-of-pocket health expenses.
To evaluate the true cost of healthcare for you and your family, you really need to look at how much you will have paid by the end of a policy term including your insurance premiums, medical appointments, medications, or emergencies have been factored in.
Work with a Broker
Insurance companies can help you understand their specific products, but an insurance broker can help you understand multiple options. Brokers understand different types of plans and can help you find the right coverage for you and your family at a price you can afford.
Instead of trying to pick the best insurance provider and plan with no industry knowledge, work with a broker who has access to multiple products and providers and can help you make the right decision.
Having a good understanding of your family’s healthcare costs will help you as you work with a broker to pick the perfect plan at the right price.
Understand Your Policy
Don’t pick a policy in a hurry. Understand what all of the terms, parts and pieces mean. Be sure you know what you’re responsible for and understand your copays, coinsurance, deductibles, and maximums.
Review Your Bills
When was the last time you double-checked a medical bill before paying it? Checking your bills for errors can help you save out-of-pocket money and can also help keep your general health insurance costs down, too.
Ask for an itemized billing that lists procedures, medications, or supplies you’re being billed for. Make sure that copays or balances you’ve already paid are being applied to your bill. Billing mistakes can happen and they can end up costing you money.
Another billing issue, known as “balance billing” may even be illegal in your state and you may not have to legally pay it. If you’ve paid your copays and deductibles and your insurance company has paid everything it’s obligated to pay towards your bill and you still receive a bill from a doctor or hospital, you may have received a “balance bill.”
Shop for Deals
When it comes to medication you may not always need a brand name drug. Many pharmacies have generic drugs at extremely low prices. These generics may be even cheaper than your insurance copay for brand name prescriptions.
Medications aren’t the only place you can look for deals. Ask your doctor about discounts for cash payments for procedures or office visits. Ask your doctor if there’s a less-costly option for a treatment or if they’re willing to perform a procedure for a lower fee. One poll found that 3 out of 5 people who negotiated with a doctor for a discount received one.
Save the Emergency Room for Emergencies
Emergency rooms serve a purpose and if you are experiencing a life-threatening condition you should get there right away. But an emergency room visit for a non-emergency condition can cost you big time. If you have the option to get to a regular doctor’s appointment or to stop in to an urgent care facility it can save you a tremendous amount of money compared to an unnecessary ER visit.
Preventative care visits are often low-cost or even no-cost. These visits can help your doctor monitor your health and look for signs of an emerging condition. Don’t skip out on these preventative care visits just because you’re feeling fine, be sure to get an annual exam to make sure all is well.
Many chronic conditions are considered “lifestyle diseases” caused by sedentary lifestyles, bad diet, and unhealthy habits such as smoking or consuming excess alcohol. Invest a little money in healthier food (more fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods) and physical exercise (a gym membership, bike for commuting, or pair of walking shoes) and you may see big payoffs in reduced instances of chronic disease. Make your health a priority and you may be rewarded with fewer illnesses and injuries and lower overall healthcare costs.