If you are like most people in this country, you have likely just renewed your medical insurance for January 1st, which means you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed thinking about starting a new deductible on your insurance.
Most Americans are subject to high deductibles, where you must pay out-of-pocket for healthcare you receive before the insurance company starts to kick in. These deductibles have risen dramatically over the past decade, now averaging $2,500 for self only coverage and $5,000 for most family plans.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your money until these deductibles are met and you start to feel some relief.
Shop, shop, shop!
No, I'm not talking about at the mall. Most people spend a half hour or more researching the best prices when it comes to household goods and electronics, so why not take the same precaution when selecting your medical and pharmacy care? Most major insurance companies offer fantastic resources on their websites to allow consumers to shop around and make more educated purchasing decisions.
You can easily save by switching from one pharmacy to another or using a particular facility for services like MRI's.
Use the proper settings for your care.
Have a sinus infection? Strep throat? Skin rash? Skip the emergency room's high price tag and long wait times and instead, check out your insurer’s telemedicine program. Most major insurance companies partner with a third-party vendor to provide access to board-certified physicians right on your smartphone or tablet. They can diagnose and treat many of these nuisance conditions for a fraction of the cost!
Switch to a less expensive prescription.
Most prescriptions on the market have at least one alternative that could save you cold hard cash at the pharmacy. Many of these alternatives have the same ingredients or do the same thing, so rest assured you are not sacrificing quality or safety. Talk to your physician or pharmacist to see if there is a less expensive option that can be used to treat your condition.
Maximize your tax-advantaged accounts.
Does your employer offer a health savings account or flexible spending account? Both are accounts that allow you to set aside money from your paycheck pre-tax to pay for medical, prescription, dental and vision expenses. Why not use these accounts and pay less of your hard-earned money to Uncle Sam!
Depending on your tax bracket, you can save anywhere between 25-40% on each dollar you put in these accounts. Be sure to consult your employer or benefits advisor to find out the maximum amount you can put into each of these accounts.
Consider purchasing optional insurance coverage to help you with your deductible exposure.
Many employers are adding additional voluntary insurance products like accident, critical illness, or hospital plans that pay you if you experience certain events throughout the year. For example, with accident coverage, if you are injured because you slip and fall this winter, and you need to have an x-ray and other follow up care, you could receive a benefit from these policies that can help you with your out of pocket costs.
Consider whether your spouse is better off without you.
Not literally, but on their own benefit plan! Many employers have increased the cost for spousal coverage or added spousal surcharges making it more cost-effective for couples to split between each of their employer’s plans. Make sure to do the math and assess whether your family’s situation is still the right fit.
While there is not much you can do about rising deductibles on your health insurance; there are many ways to cut costs within your plan. As your benefits strategist, we continually strive to streamline the benefits experience for your organization to help you in choosing the best plan for your needs without breaking the bank.