Yesterday in an effort to bring more understanding to health literacy month we began talking about ways to reduce your healthcare costs by being an educated consumer. Today we are going to continue that discussion with ten additional ways to reduce your healthcare costs. With little effort and some additional thinking, you can save thousands of dollars on your medical bills.
- Choose your health plan wisely. Choosing the plan with the lowest premiums or sticking with the same plan year to year may not be the smartest option. Anticipate your family’s medical expenses and look closely at each plan option to find the most appropriate and cost-effective one for you.
- Consider an HSA. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are growing in popularity. They are combined with a high deductible health plan. The high deductible policy protects you from the cost of a catastrophic illness or prolonged hospitalization. You control the savings account and use it for small and routine health care expenses. Although you own and manage the account, employers will often make contributions to HSAs as well. Funds you don’t use grow tax-free and can be rolled over from year to year. For 2016, you can contribute up to $3,350 for an individual account and up to $6,750 if you’re insured under a family plan. In 2017, you can contribute up to $3,400 for an individual account and up to $6,750 if you’re insured under a family plan. If you’re 55 or older, your contribution levels rise by an additional $1,000.
- Take advantage of flexible spending accounts. A flexible spending account, or FSA, is an employee benefit program that allows you to set aside money on a pretax basis for certain health care and dependent care expenses. That means you keep more of your money. Your employer may also contribute to your FSA account. The maximum total FSA contribution for 2016 is $2,550.
- Don’t skimp on preventive care. Be sure your child gets routine checkups and vaccines as needed, both of which can prevent medical problems (and bills) down the road. Also, adults should get the preventive screenings recommended for their age in order to detect health conditions early.
- Look for free services. Look for free health screenings and vaccinations in your area. With a little research, you could find free or reduced-price flu shots, Pap smears, prostate exams, cholesterol screenings and more.
- Chill out. According to WebMD, up to 90 percent of doctor visits are for stress-related conditions. Studies show that relaxation techniques are effective in controlling anxiety, enhancing the immune system and reducing conditions such as high blood pressure, substance abuse and chronic pain.
- Quit smoking. Under the ACA, health insurers are allowed to charge smokers 50 percent higher premiums than nonsmokers for new polices sold to individuals and smaller employer groups. Plus, if you quit smoking you can expect to save approximately $2,000 a year on the cost of cigarettes alone.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. Focus on eating nutritiously, cutting down on fast food and getting more physical exercise. Striving toward a healthier lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight can drastically reduce future medical conditions and diseases.
- Get a second opinion. Save thousands of dollars a year on cutting-edge medical tests, which usually are not covered by insurance, by following the guidelines recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. You can find these guidelines at ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstfix.htm.
- Think twice about the emergency room. Don’t go to the emergency room (ER) when your regular doctor or an urgent care visit would suffice. If you or your child is feeling ill on Friday, get into the doctor that day to avoid overpaying at the ER during the weekend.
AUI has a number of resources to help you be a better insurance consumer. To learn more, please contact us!