Five Ways to Save on Healthcare Costs

Karen Munsey |

It’s certainly no secret that healthcare costs have escalated in recent years, and there’s no reason to believe that the end is in sight.  But whether you have a comprehensive health insurance policy or have purchased a catastrophic policy, there are ways to save on healthcare costs.

Here are just a few:

1. Stop going to the emergency room for minor illnesses. There are many reasons why going to the emergency room is a good idea. A cold or the flu is not one of them. Urgent care centers are designed to handle non-emergency medical situations from coughs, colds, the flu, to minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises. If you have a comprehensive insurance plan, your co-payment for urgent care will likely be half of what the emergency room co-payment would be. And if you’re paying out of pocket, an urgent care bill will likely amount to about one-tenth of what an emergency room bill would be. Save the emergency room for emergencies, and go to the urgent care route instead.

2. Take advantage of a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA). Traditionally offered by larger employers, more small business owners are starting to offer HRAs to their employees. When signing up, you’ll choose the amount that you expect to pay in out of pocket healthcare related expenses in the upcoming year. When you have a reimbursable expense, you can file a claim with the plan administrator to be reimbursed up to the yearly amount requested, meaning the co-pays and other expenses that you have to pay out of pocket will be paid with tax-free funds. Many HRA plans now issue a card that can be used like a credit/debit card, so you can pay for medical expenses as they occur; eliminating the need to file a claim.

3. Sign up for a Health Savings Account. If your policy has an annual deductible of $1,300 for single coverage or $2,600 for family coverage, you’re eligible for a Health Savings Account. You can contribute up to $6,750 per year for a family policy, with $1,000 additional if over 55, and the savings can be used in the current or future years, unlike the HRA, which requires you to use the funds in the current year.

4. Pay attention to your medical bills. Hospital bills in particular are error-prone, billing for items and services never received. Before automatically paying any balance due, make sure that you actually owe the bill. But it’s not just hospital bills. Even bills from an office visit or lab may contain errors. Taking a few moments to review bills as they come in can help to ensure that the balance due is accurate.

5. Take the time to compare insurance plan options during open enrollment. Make sure that you compare your options, and don’t automatically sign up for the same plan, or the cheapest plan. In actuality, in many cases the cheapest plan may end up costing you the most if you have surgery, or spend any time in the hospital.

Other options include taking advantage of mail order prescriptions, utilizing health plan benefits such as free gym membership and telehealth options can also help you save. While healthcare may never be truly affordable, these and other options can help to minimize additional expenses.

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