The two main component of a health insurance plan are the premium and costs you pay for health care via your co-pay, co-insurance and deductible. The more you agree to pay for your health care, the less your monthly premium will be. Insurance companies know that when people have a financial stake in their own health care bills they tend to be more judicious in their use of medical services. Agreeing to pay a higher deductible, or rate of co-insurance, will result in lower monthly premiums. Sometimes these reductions can be quite significant and if saved will cover most if not all of the cost of the higher deductible.
This approach is less effective for people who use a lot of health care services every year, racking up large bills. However, for people who are generally health and don’t use a lot of health care, they can realize dramatic savings using a high deductible health plan. Plans with high premiums are guaranteed to cost you a lot of money even if you don’t go to the doctor. Plans with high deductibles will only cost you a lot if you actually use medical services.
Use Tax Advantages
There are a few ways to reduce your health insurance costs using the income tax system. The first and most common way is to use a health savings account otherwise known as an HSA. An HSA is a special banking account you are allowed to put pretax money in to spend on health care costs. The money you put into your health savings account does not get taxed as regular income. Depending on the tax bracket you are in, this can be a significant discount on health care costs. Many health care plans do not cover things like maternity, dental services and eye care. However, these services can be paid for out of an HSA.
To be eligible for an HSA, you must have a high deductible health insurance plan that meets the IRS requirements for health savings accounts. Generally you have to carry a high deductible and the plan has to have limits on total out of pocket cots.
If you are facing large health care bills, you may be able to deduct them from your income tax. You are allowed to deduct any medical expenses above 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. There are a wide variety of services that can be included in this amount, even a mileage deduction for transportation to and from the hospital. Make sure to consult a tax advisor if you choose to go this route.
Use your free Preventive Care
All health insurance plans are now required to provide free preventive care, so make sure you use it. Routine checkups and some testing is free for adults. Well baby visits and immunizations are free for children. These are significant benefits so make sure you are taking full advantage of them.
One of the reasons health care has become so expensive is there is little price competition. Don’t be afraid to ask what a doctor charges, especially for planned or expected health care. Some hospitals can be very competitive on price for services like labor and delivery, while others can be quite expensive. Don’t assume health care costs the same everywhere, it certainly does not.
Emergency rooms are especially to be avoided if you are looking to reduce your health care costs. They should only be used for true emergencies. For non life threatening medical issues like ear infections or even a cut requiring stitches, consider using an urgent care or local clinic. The costs of services at these locations can be a tenth of what an emergency room will charge.
This may sound like tired advice, but staying out of the hospital is the best way to reduce your costs. Try putting everyday activities in terms of what they may cost you in the long run. Sitting on the couch with a big bowl of ice cream is much more expensive than a nice walk outside. If living a long life isn’t enough motivation to be healthy now, consider that your unhealthy lifestyle will cost you a lot of money in health care costs.
Learn more about your health insurance deductible, part of my comprehensive guide on health care plans. Private health insurance can be very expensive. Make sure you read as much as possible in order to minimize your costs now, because when you do need medical care you may not have the time.