9 Tips for Keeping Your Health Insurance Costs Affordable

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Whether you’re looking to purchase a brand new policy during open enrollment in the Healthcare Marketplace or you’re pretty happy with your current plan, saving money on the cost of healthcare is always an added benefit that can boost your budget (and your savings). But premiums, hospital visits or even a quick appointment with your provider can end up costing more than you were anticipating.

If you’re looking to save money on health insurance costs, no matter which stage of the game you’re in, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve rounded up a collection of health insurance hacks that can help you save money without lowering the quality of your coverage. It’s always important to do your due diligence when shopping for the right plan for yourself or your family, and these tips can help you make the most of your plan.

Look at More Than Just the Premium

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When you’re looking to save on healthcare costs, the temptation may arise to simply purchase the health insurance option that has the lowest premium. But a low premium, which is the amount of money your insurance plan costs each month, will almost certainly come with a higher deductible. A deductible is the annual amount you pay out of pocket toward medical bills each year before your insurance kicks in and starts covering your costs.

So should you go for a lower premium or a lower deductible? The truth is, it all depends. If you don’t anticipate having to go to the doctor many times throughout the year, you may be better off going with a lower premium. Just be aware that, should the unexpected happen, you could then have to start paying towards your higher deductible — and might not have anticipated these extra costs. However, if you have chronic health conditions or a family to provide for, a lower deductible may be the way to go. The important thing is to make sure you really understand the terms of the coverage, what it offers and whether it’s likely to save you money or cost you more in the long run.

Explore the Possibility of Power in Numbers

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If your employer offers a group-based insurance benefits program, talk with someone in HR and do a bit of research to determine whether it’s right for you. These types of plans can often present good savings opportunities — but they’re not created equal. While not every group insurance plan is great, there are plenty that are, and you’ll want to be sure of the ins and outs before you sign up.

Some group insurance plans include perks like lower premiums, more coverage for pre-existing conditions and better benefits overall. These plans spread the cost of risk among many different employees, which allows an insurance company to keep costs lower. Many employers seek out great healthcare plans that they can also afford to help pay for, which ends up being mutually beneficial to both parties.

Take Advantage of Health Perks

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Some health insurance companies partner with activity trackers like Fitbit to offer discounts and rewards programs. The healthier you are, the less likely you are to need to use your insurance. This provides an incentive for your insurer to do what it can to help you get and stay in shape. Look into the various perks that your insurance may offer, such as discounted gym memberships, savings on fitness equipment and rewards for staying active.  

Get a Second Opinion on Medical Billing

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It’s easy to get overwhelmed with medical bills, especially when you don’t fully understand exactly what you’re being charged for or why it seems to cost so much. If you’ve ever felt like your bill contained errors, you’re not alone — and you might not be wrong. But even if the billing is indeed correct, asking your insurer about the cost can sometimes help you access savings, too.

If you find yourself in this situation, look into a medical billing advocate service. Services like CoPatient and a number of others exist specifically to help patients navigate these types of issues. They usually take a percentage of the money they’re able to help you save, which provides them with further incentive to advocate with your insurance or doctor’s office on your behalf.

Choose Your Medical Expenses Wisely

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Don’t get us wrong — if your doctor insists that a test or procedure is absolutely necessary, you should never refuse to comply just to save a few dollars. That said, don’t be afraid to ask whether it really is medically necessary, because your insurance company won’t be afraid to do the same.

You don’t want to get a surprise medical bill that your insurance company has refused to cover because it’s deemed there wasn’t really a need for the procedure or test in the first place. By asking your doctor to really narrow things down to the essentials, at least when you’re in the earlier stages of a diagnosis, you may be able to prevent some billing surprises.

Use a Health Savings Account

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If you’ve yet to research the perks of a health savings account (HSA), then now may be the time to start. An HSA is essentially a savings account that you can fund with tax-advantaged money to pay for qualified medical expenses.

The only catch is that in order to qualify for an HSA, you must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a deductible of more than $1,350. The perk here is that the higher your deductible is, the lower your premium will likely be — but again, a high-deductible plan may not be ideal for your current life situation.

Look Into Prepayment Discounts

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If you know you need to have a procedure, you may be able to obtain a discount if you talk to the doctor or hospital about pre-paying the bill or paying in full. Some hospitals are more open to working with you than others, so you may even want to do a bit of research to see which of those in your insurance plan’s network offers the best price. While such discount policies are different at every medical institution, it’s one of those questions you should ask if you have the available funds in your budget to cover this type of cost up front.

See If You Qualify for a Subsidy

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A subsidy is a kind of government benefit that can help you pay for healthcare if you fall below a certain income bracket. There are two main subsidies available from the U.S. government:

  • The Advanced Premium Tax Credit can be used to help lower your monthly premium.
  • A Cost Sharing Reduction or CSR is a kind of discount that can lower the cost of your deductible, copayments and coinsurance each year.

Visit HealthCare.gov for more information and to see whether you qualify for one or even both subsidies.

Choose the Right Provider

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Not only is it important to avoid an insurance headache by choosing an in-network provider, but you should also always be choosy about the type of provider you select for various treatments. Going to the ER, for instance, should be reserved for true emergencies; the services you receive there will likely be more expensive in the long run than those from a stand-alone surgery center or urgent care clinic.

For non-emergencies, you might even consider using a telemedicine service or subscription service. Depending on your co-pay, some of these services may be cheaper than an in-office visit in the long run.