According to a Willis Towers Watson report, many families can expect a 5.5% increase in their health costs in 2018. This is on top of a 4.6% increase in 2017. However, for those who buy off the health insurance exchanges, these people can expect an increase of about 17.8%!! As we wrote in a previous article, medical debt is the number 1 reason families go into bankruptcy. If this is you, try not to worry. Luckily, there are ways to mitigate these increases and still have good coverage. In this article, we discuss the ways to save money on health insurance.
How To Save Money On Health Insurance
You can save money on your health insurance. Warning: it will require you to have vigilance and a willingness to take control of your health care expenses. Sorry. If you are thinking you can sit back and let someone else manage this, you are wrong.
If you are ready to save money, here are some of the ways to save money on health insurance. Some of these are easy, and you can implement right now.
Know Your Policy
We don’t have facts and figures. In our own experience in working with individuals and families, many did not know how their health insurance worked. If you want to save money on health insurance, it is imperative you know how your policy works.
You will want to find out if your plan is a PPO or HMO. You will also want to know what they deductible is as well as any copay and coinsurance costs.
Most importantly, you will want to know if your doctor and services are in the network. You will have lower costs by choosing doctors and providers that are in your plan’s network. You can easily find out from your plan’s provider directory, which is usually online.
If you don’t know the difference among a deductible, a copay, coinsurance, and your premium, we created an easy-to-understand guide to walk you through.
Again, knowing your policy is the first step to saving money on your health insurance. Dedicate a couple of hours to this. You will want to review your policy’s summary of benefits as well as any consumer guides. These documents will walk you through your policy. If you have any questions, you can always contact us.
You shop around for groceries? A major purchase? You can shop around for your prescription drugs, too. No, you don’t have to stick with one pharmacy. Most people think you have to, but you don’t.
How can you shop around for the best prescription drug prices?
There are many websites which can help. The website www.goodrx.com can be a good start. If you have ScriptSave, a discount prescription drug card, you can use its directory to find the lowest cost prescription drugs in your area.
As we mentioned, if you have a willingness to take control of your health care costs, using an online checker to find the lowest priced prescription drug costs will help save money on health insurance.
Check Bills For Errors
Mistakes happen. Billing coding errors happen. Generally speaking, when billing errors happen, the costs are passed down to you and me – the consumers – in the form of increased premiums.
After you visit a provider, you will receive an explanation of benefits from the insurance company. Take this EOB and review it to make sure it accurately depicts your visit. Additionally, cross-check it with your invoice. The two should be the same.
One major issue you want to be aware: balance billing. Balance billing occurs when a provider invoices you the difference between the allowed insurance charges and their own rate. This is an illegal practice in most states! Be aware. Matching the EOB against any invoices will ensure you are billed the allowed insurance amount.
Seek Group Coverage
One way to obtain affordable health insurance is by purchasing group health insurance coverage. Carrier underwrites group health insurance much differently than individual health insurance. Underwriting is on a group of people together as opposed to an individual. The insurance underwriter focuses on the group as a whole, rather than it individuals. Most of the time, the carrier requires each group participant to complete a short application form which usually consists of the individual’s name, address, Social Security number, and dependent information. There are typically no medical questions; thus, no actual medical underwriting takes place. Because the underwriting is spread among many people, premiums can be a bit lower than an individual policy.
Sounds good? It can be. If the insurance has good coverage and fits your needs, then the health insurance should fit your situation.
Most individuals and self-employed individuals don’t have access to group coverage. One way to check is if you belong to a trade association. Sometimes, these associations will have access to group health insurance coverage. You want to make sure the insurance fits your and your family’s needs.
Negotiate Your Costs
As a healthcare consumer, like any consumer, you can negotiate your health insurance costs. Did you know that? As we mentioned before, negotiating requires you to have a willingness for more control over your health care expenses.
Every doctor and specialist is a business owner. They would rather have their money paid sooner than have it go through insurance and paid much later. Here are some suggestions to negotiate with your doctor (or his/her billing department). Ask for:
- the cash price if you pay up front
- a discount if you pay anything in advance
- a discount if you pay your insurance bill within X number of days or receipt – this is very easy to do. Once you receive your invoice, call up the office manager and ask what kind of discount can they apply if you pay NOW
Indemnity plans often work well when negotiating with doctors and specialists. The reason is that benefits are typically robust and paid directly to you. Indemnity plans are not traditional insurance plans. They pay you based on a set schedule. You then can keep this money for whatever you want. However, you receive the money directly. You then pay the provider or doctor.
Indemnity plans are considered supplement plans. Let’s say you go to the doctor because of a laceration and stitches. Your indemnity plan might pay you $50 for the office visit and $100 for the stitches. You have a traditional insurance policy, too. Let’s say after the insurance, your out-of-pocket costs from the doctor is $170. You tell the office manager that you can pay $150 NOW. Most likely, the office manager will take the discount, and you just saved yourself $20.
Or, you ask the office manager the discount if you pay NOW. The manager says it is $135. You pay the $135 and pocket the $15 balance from the indemnity plan.
Use Technology And Wellness Programs
The use of technology and wellness programs allow subscribers and their families to save on health insurance. Do you think benefits from wellness programs are skimpy? Try again. UnitedHealthcare has a wellness program called Motion. This program will pay $1,000 of out-of-pocket costs just for walking!
It pays to check out any wellness and savings programs your insurance plan may have.
Can you save money on health insurance? After reading this article, we hope so!
There were some other areas we didn’t touch on, yet somewhat obvious, which can save money on health insurance. Generally, the healthier you are, the lower your insurance costs. Eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise – all the things nutritionists say you should do.
You know that warm, “fuzzy” feeling in your stomach when something doesn’t seem right. If you get that feeling when your doctor talks to you about different exams and tests, it is ok to ask him or her if the test is necessary.
Your next steps? You should try to implement some of the suggestions above. We generally recommend that you know your plan first. Without knowing the in’s and out’s of your current health insurance plan, it is hard to do much else.
We know that this can all be confusing, and you may not know where or how to begin. This is where we come in. Contact us. We truly care about you and your family. We can help clear up any confusion with your health insurance plan, answer questions, and ultimately help you save money.