Healthcare costs are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. Nearly 15% of adults have medical bills they cannot repay within 12 months and half of the population is worried that medical bills will bankrupt them.
If money is tight, these 10 tips can help you get the best value for your money.
Decide Which Plan is Best For You
You don't want to judge a health plan by the price tag. Even though the first thing you want to know when you buy a plan is how much it will cost, the real answer is not always clear. Your financial status and family needs dictate how much you can afford. Your monthly payments might be low, but your other costs could be very high.
If you choose a low premium/high deductible plan, you may end up paying a lot more if you or a family member are the types that tend to visit the doctor more. You'll have to guess how much all your appointments, medications, or emergencies could cost based on the health of the people covered by your policy.
Lower premiums may not be the cheapest option, so you shouldn't base your decision solely on them.
Use a Health Insurance Broker
The marketplace doesn’t always have the best prices. Since the marketplace began, government regulations have helped millions of people get coverage. It can be tough to find your way through the marketplace, and you still need to take the time to compare your options. Aside from the marketplace, there are other options you can explore.
A broker can help you find what you need and can make a major difference. This may be the best way to work within a budget without shopping or doing all the work by yourself. Brokers do not work for one insurance company, they might work for many. This means it's in their best interest to look out for you—after all, most of them make their money from commissions.
It doesn’t hurt to contact a health insurance broker and see what they can find for you.
Manage Your Healthcare Costs
You might not think billing errors are a problem if you have health insurance, but you often pay a portion of your medical bills through copays, coinsurance, and deductibles.
Check your medical bills for errors to make sure you're paying what you're supposed to be paying. This will not only save you money on what you are paying out of pocket; it will help keep your costs down.
When looking over your medical bills, ask for an itemized billing that lists the supplies, medications, or procedures you are being billed for. You should also make sure you confirm all the data to the best of your ability.
Watch out for balance billing. Balance billing is when an insurance company bills you for any balance left over if there is a difference between the bill and the allowed amount. Preferred providers are not allowed to do this, so it helps to know if you are legally responsible for paying a balance after the insurance payment is made.
Find Alternatives to Traditional Healthcare Insurance
Many people do not know that they are eligible for group insurance benefits through professional or other membership associations. For example, one membership-type plan is Farm Bureau Health Insurance. Many people think only farmers can apply, but the plan is based on community, so you can become a member.
Look at the Plans You Have Now
One thing working couples often miss is looking at how their two different health plans can work together. For example, look at the coverage both plans have and compare the advantages. You might find that each plan can be used to reduce costs.
You may also see how your insurance companies coordinate benefits. For example, one company might pay part of a procedure, while the other might pay for any remaining costs.
Health Savings Accounts
A health savings account is an account that lets you place pre-tax money into it for health care use. Since the money is not taxed unless you use it for other reasons, it is a great way to save money on health care.
Health Insurance Waivers
After comparing plans and costs with your spouse, you could look into signing a health insurance waiver with one group insurer. If you find that one will offer you more, you could waive the group insurance from your employer and use your partners.
Subsidies can also lower the costs of healthcare. A tool like a health care calculator can help you find out whether you can get one or not.
Learn the Basics
Learning the health insurance terms and how they affect you can help you make better decisions and save money on your health insurance costs. When looking at health insurance choices, shop around and compare the copay, coinsurance, deductibles, and other factors like lifetime maximums.
For instance, health savings accounts are a good way to plan for the future. You may have built savings up in one of these plans, but you could find yourself paying taxes or penalties if you don't understand how to use it.
Negotiate Services Costs and Discounts
We aren’t always in the best mindset when we are sick. Thinking about asking for a discount is not high on our list of things to do when we're on a gurney needing help.
Billing departments, doctors, and health care facilities may be open to talking about lower costs, especially if you offer to help make their work easier. Before you need treatment:
- Ask if you can get a discount for paying in advance if you have a procedure coming up at a future date.
- Ask if they can allow a discount for paying cash.
- Speak to your doctor about your healthcare concerns. If you have a high deductible or other issues, the doctor might be able to reduce fees.
Every cent helps when you are looking to save money. Be sure and explore these options and make these questions part of your list of policy must-haves. Look for health services providers who can give you the greatest financial help while in their care.
Find Health Insurance Plan Discounts
Technology is making more data about the state of our health easily available. Many insurers are starting to look at using tools like fitness trackers to minimize their risk. As a result, some insurance providers may provide discounts or options that save you money.
Make sure to ask about the changes in your policy every year since this type of program is becoming more common.
Save Money on Prescription Drugs
Before choosing a provider or renewing your policy, find out where they stand with the prescription medications you take. If you have prescriptions that you regularly will need to fill, ask for a list from your provider and see where they stand on their list.
You might be able to find cheaper versions by asking for generics. You could also use technology to find the lowest prices for the medicine you need. You might be able to find your medications cheaper if you fall into a certain income category.
Ask your pharmacist if the medicine's manufacturer has a program for lower-income patients.
Cut Down on Unnecessary Medical Visits
Doctors often perform tests as precautions. Ask your doctor if they really need to do the test or procedure they are recommending. There might be less costly alternatives that can save you money.
Talking with your doctor helps them work with you better and can also cut costs. Review your past spending for preventative care for yourself and your family. Try to plan ahead with the help of your physician for upcoming regular visits like check-ups to see if you can get lower rates.
Negotiate and Compare Health Care Service Options
You can save a great deal of money by shopping around. Doctors and medical service centers all charge different rates. Saving money this way relies on two factors. One is whether you can get the services you need, and the other is if your health plan allows you to choose.
Much of this depends on the type of plan you have. If your health insurance plan limits your options, then you'll not be able to choose where you can get services and may pay more. Once you know what you can do, call around and find out what the going rates are for the care you think you might need.
The emergency room may have higher costs than a local clinic. You can avoid them by checking into local services in advance. This can save you money if you need care that doesn't require emergency services.