Sooner or later, everyone needs health care. Health insurance may seem like an unnecessary expense when you’re young and healthy, but it can pay off when you least expect it. It may be difficult to shell out your hard-earned money each month, but it is an investment not only in your well-being but also your peace of mind. While it’s an important expense for everyone, there are ways to cut your costs and slim down that monthly bill.
How healthy are you?
If you’re in good health and have a history of just basic medical visits for checkups, you may not need high-priced insurance featuring low deductibles and clinic co-pays. A low co-pay per doctor visit saves you money when it’s used frequently. Otherwise, you’re paying for an option and not using it. Most insurance plans also cover proactive care, so that yearly checkup may still be covered even if you choose a higher deductible. Check your plan for services covered under proactive care, such as mammograms, cholesterol screenings and other recommended tests.
How well do you like your doctor?
A good relationship with your doctor is golden, so examine how important it is for you to see the doctor you currently have. If you find a lower-cost health plan that excludes your doctor from your network, would you be comfortable with the switch or would you still insist on seeing your current physician and paying the extra charges out of pocket? If you have no overriding attachment to your present provider or are looking for a different doctor, a cheaper plan may be just the thing you need.
Are you eligible for someone else’s plan?
If you’re a young adult under the age of 26, it may be cheaper to be included on your parent’s health insurance than getting your own policy. Young adults under the age of 30 can find inexpensive plans, however, that offer only catastrophic coverage with high deductibles. You may get a better deal with more benefits with your parents, especially if you have pre-existing conditions or ongoing prescription needs. Alternatively, if there’s someone else in your household who has health insurance through an employer, check their policy and see what requirements are needed to be added.
Do you qualify for state plans like Medicaid?
If your income is below a certain level, you may qualify for Medicaid, which covers a variety of conditions and services. Medicaid plans vary from state to state in coverage and cost. If you do have Medicaid, you may be eligible for an inexpensive supplemental health insurance plan that covers what Medicaid will not, or Medicaid may assist with out-of-pocket costs. Every little bit helps in today’s expensive world, so it’s worth checking before you start shopping for insurance. Even if you aren’t eligible, your children or other family members may be.
Do you need prescription coverage?
If you’re not currently on any long-term prescribed medication, it may be in your best interest to find a plan with minimal prescription coverage or a higher prescription co-pay. In “Saving on Individual Health Insurance,” the author suggests that prescription coverage may not be needed for everyone. If you do need a prescription filled down the road, it may cost you less to choose a generic brand and pay it out of pocket rather than submit it to your insurance and pay a higher co-pay rate.
Does your employer offer good health incentives?
If you have insurance through your job, ask your boss or Human Resources department about good health incentives. Some companies offer discounts if you lose weight, quit smoking or take other proactive methods of staying healthy. It’s in their best interest to keep you in good health, since healthy workers use less sick days and therefore increase the firm’s productivity. Taking advantage of these programs also keeps your insurance premiums lower as well.
Do you know about HSAs?
HSAs are health savings accounts, and can be set up individually on your own, or in conjunction with an employer health plan. If cutting down your insurance benefits spares your wallet but causes you some worry about your future, you can take money for a benefit that goes unused, like a low doctor’s office co-pay or high prescription co-pay, and put it into an HSA for later use. That way you’ll have lower premiums and still have funds to cover needed medical expenses should they arise. The money in the HSA is yours to extract at any time for out-of-pocket expenses, and may be a better choice than higher insurance premiums. Remember to document your expenses if you use HSA funds, because pulling them out of the bank for non-medical reasons means that cash is taxable at the end of the year.
One of the best ways to be frugal with your health insurance is to know your current plan inside and out. Don’t let the paperwork intimidate you, know what’s covered and what’s not. If you see a deficit in your current plan, shop around for other plans when your open enrolment season starts to get the most for your dollar. Also, let your current physician, clinic staff, and pharmacist know what your insurance does and does not cover. Often they can recommend cheaper prescriptions or have some sound advice on staying healthy and staying on budget.
Beth Bartlett writes about business, travel and pop culture for a number of publications.