With so many changes to healthcare in recent years, there is some uncertainty in the air around the rising costs and changing coverages. While some of this is not completely in our hands, there are things that we can do to help keep our own healthcare costs to a minimum.
1. Anticipate your known needs and choose the right plan from the start. Are you healthy as an ox and rarely see a doctor beyond your annual physical? Look into basic plans that will cover you in the event of a catastrophe. We are all human, and life happens.
So while you probably don’t need the super pricey coverage that pays for more care than you will likely use, you still need a safety net for the “just in case.” Do you have an ongoing health issue that requires constant care and/or medication? You will probably need to upgrade to a plan that will cover your needs at a higher percentage and will save you money over the course of the year. Yes, the premium is higher, but the savings compared to paying out of pocket before hitting a high deductible will add up to create the best value. Search for calculators online to help you anticipate the best plan types for your needs.
2. Stay in network. Before visiting a doctor or lab, make sure you confirm that they are part of the network you belong to. No one likes calling insurance companies. However, a phone call to confirm or a pre-authorization for routine treatment may be worth it. Don’t risk your health by waiting too long, but be proactive to watch your bottom line. Also, know which hospitals, emergency rooms, and urgent cares are in network and competent ahead of time. If an emergency strikes, you don’t have time to research or make those kinds of calls. Knowing ahead of time where to go will save you time and money.
3. Improve and maintain your health. This is one of the best (and often scoffed at) pieces of advice you can get around lowering healthcare costs. While some health issues are out of our control, there are plenty that we can help minimize or eliminate with regular exercise, balanced and healthful food intake, and moderate lifestyles. Keep sugar, alcohol and other vices in check. Be social in positive circles and enjoy the outdoors for better mental health. Your mental health should be given as much care as your physical health as they both work hand in hand.
4. Keep stress levels low. Stress is an invasive foe that robs you of time and joy. Minimize stressors in your life that are in your control. If your job is highly stressful, look for ways to combat the stress and enjoy more of your day. If that isn’t possible, it may be time to search for other places of employment or other fields altogether. This is a personal choice that you need to weigh against the importance of your health. Take up yoga, meditation, walks outside, hiking, gin rummy with your pals. Whatever lets you release the tension of the day in a beneficial, non-destructive way.
5. Some insurance companies offer a free “phone-a-doc” or “tele-doc” type service. If your illness is minor but uncomfortable (think pink eye, minor skin conditions, the beginning of a UTI), consider calling it in and getting advice or a prescription over the phone. If you are certain of what is going on and feel comfortable with a phone consult, this can save you the expense of urgent care or doctor visit and the pain of having to wait for an appointment. However, there is no substitution for going in person if your illness is unfamiliar or getting worse.
6. Check out HSA insurance plans. These plans allow you to save a limited amount of tax-deferred money on a yearly basis to go toward your healthcare costs. Plan premiums tend to be lower, while deductibles and out of pocket expenses for care are higher. These tax-advantaged accounts may be something to consider depending on your health, financial situation and tax needs.
If you are looking to save on healthcare this year and moving forward, stay focused on your needs, care for your health, and do your homework. It pays off in the long run. Stay healthy my friends!