Healthcare expenses are generally unavoidable and with past few years, the prices are soaring up. According to a study, more than 25% families struggle to keep up with their medical bills. The problem is getting so severe that medical debt has become no. 1 source of personal bankruptcy filings in the country.
Why is healthcare so expensive?
Health insurance plan premiums have been climbing across the board. Your premium is effectively the annual fee you pay to get coverage under an insurance plan. Few individuals get lucky to have subsidized insurance in which their employers pay a portion of their premium costs but others suffer to pay their premium costs alone. Then, there are deductibles to worry about. You have to give this amount from your pocket before the insurance company starts giving you medical services. While some health plans come with a very low deductible, other plans may force you to spend many thousands of dollars before the medical coverage starts. Even if you get health insurance, you still have to copay every time you visit doctor or fill the prescription. Usually, you have to pay less to a general doctor but specialists charge higher copays.
Healthcare users can be divided into three categories: low, medium and high. Low users rarely go to the doctors. They are in good health mostly. High users may have frequent visits due to serious health conditions or may be their children need regular check-ups. People who spend more will quickly meet a high deductible. They often end-up spending less overall on high deductible plans which have lower premiums. In contrast to that, people who are low users may also spend less on a low premium as they are also getting high deductibles. It’s the middle users who do visit the doctor but they do not like to spend enough to meet a high deductible. The middle users should consider lower-deductible plans.
However, saving money on healthcare is a lot more difficult than saving money on food. It is better to act early than to react later. Try to be sensible in choosing the right health insurance. If you are having trouble in managing your health insurance, you should know that there are several steps you can take to lower your healthcare expenses.
- Invest in better health insurance
Do not get tempted by cheap health insurance, the plan with the lowest premium. They will cost you more in other ways. Health insurance premium and deductibles have an inverse relationship. The less you pay for one; you will end up paying more for the other. So if you buy a plan with low premium cost, your deductible will be higher. Low cost health insurance isn’t always bad but if you have children, you might visit doctors often. In this case, low cost insurance doesn’t make sense. Always select health insurance according to your circumstances.
- Use generic medicines
Try to save on medicines. Consult your doctor if he can give generic medicines instead of branded ones. Both have same ingredients so you do not need to worry. Just take suggestion from the doctor and ask if you can get medicine through mail. There is no shame in asking the provider about low cost medicine that can treat you. Always take medicine on time. If you are saving money by not taking any medicine, this is not saving.
- Use your benefits
You should regularly have a routine check up as it will help you know beforehand about the coming disease. Pregnant women should get treated more often. Use free and discounted services. Also, health advocates can give you a lot of information about your medical benefits. And a case manager can help you if you have any dangerous health conditions such as heart disease or asthma.
- Choose health care providers in your own network
Try to remain in-network. Choose the doctors from in-network. They are bound to help you as they are in contract of your health plan and will charge you less as compared to out-network health care providers. You can also choose to see out-network doctors but they will charge you more.
- Outpatient facilities
Try to ask your doctor if they can cure you out of the hospital. The expenses in hospitals are way higher than in clinics. If you want to have a surgery or treatment of any chronic disease, ask the doctor to treat you in clinic if possible.
- Use HSA or FSA
Many employers offer you health care savings account or flexible spending account. These are savings accounts that help you put aside pre-tax money for health care expenses. You can hundreds of dollars per year with these accounts. HSAs are owned by you. Earn interest and can be transferred to a new employer. FSAs are owned by your employer, do not earn interest and must be used within a calendar year.
- Take preventive measures
Under the Affordable Care Act, all preventative care visits are free. Also, kids’ annual check-ups are included in the plan with no additional out of pocket costs. Getting vaccinations on time will also lower your child’s risk of illness and your risk of facing high medical bills. Take care of your kids with home remedies. Ask them to wash hands every now and then. Keep clean and stay safe. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on expensive mineral supplements and vitamins and herbs as there is not enough data to support their effectiveness. Only take calcium and vitamin D supplements if necessary as they have been proven effective.
- Negotiate the service your insurance won’t cover
If you need a service and your insurance company doesn’t pay for it, do not just give up. Instead, let your medical provider know that you are paying out of pocket and see what he or she can do to assist. Sometimes medical officers will offer a reduced rate to patients without insurance or without coverage for service they require. Even if you do not get a reduction, you will manage to get on a low or no-interest payment plan without being charged extra for that treatment service.
- Take care of your health
The best way to save money on your healthcare is simply to take care of yourself. This is easier than running to and forth to the doctors and paying excessive money. Stay at a healthy weight, get a regular exercise, walk daily and do not smoke. Eat in right proportions. Give your kids healthy food. These precautions will drastically lower your risks for health problems. Staying healthy helps you avoid costly tests and treatments for ongoing conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
Understanding health insurance coverage options is confusing but it is important at the same time. Taking wise steps to ensure you have access to medical help and regular care will keep you and your family healthy, both physically and financially.