Remember the days when you only paid $10 or $20 copayments for healthcare? If you don’t, your parents probably do. Employers picked up a big chunk of medical coverage expenses and health insurance plans. Then the bottom fell out.
How to Save Money on Healthcare
Healthcare costs skyrocketed. In 20 years (1995-2015), U.S. private health insurance spending alone rose from $325 billion to over $1 trillion. Throw in all types of funding (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, VA, etc.) and the total tops a staggering $3.2 trillion. Ouch.
If employers wanted to continue to offer health benefits and health insurance plans, they needed to change their role as the overprotective parent. It was time for them kick their employees into the big, bad world of healthcare. Employers knew their workforce needed to become better healthcare consumers. What they found out is that’s much easier said than done.
Getting Smarter with Health Insurance Plans
To reduce premiums, many employers began offering high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). To help employees save for their higher out-of-pocket costs, an increasing number of employers attach health savings accounts (HSAs) to HDHPs.
However, being a smart healthcare consumer is not as simple as purchasing technology online…not yet anyway.
You probably have not given a lot of thought to your healthcare options. But there are steps you can take to become a smarter healthcare consumer so you save money on expenses. You may find the following suggestions helpful:
1. Consider Health Savings Plans
The 70s brought more than classic rock. Legislation introduced the flexible spending account (FSA) to help employees with rising healthcare costs. Health savings accounts (HSAs) and Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) soon followed.
If you have health insurance through your employer, check to see if a health savings plan is one of your options. The tax-advantaged plans help you Invest in your health® and save money for health-related expenses.
If you buy your own health insurance, you may qualify for an HSA with its triple tax advantage. Get more information under Individuals & Families.
2. Use Healthcare Shopping Tools
Think about how you shop for new technology. You probably read reviews, study comparisons, and shop for the best deal.
Healthcare has been a bit slower in developing shopping tools but that is changing. Learn what is available to you so you can make better decisions.
- Check with your employer if you have health benefits through your company. Some employers may use outside vendors that provide shopping tools.
- Go to your insurance carrier’s website. Most insurance companies have various shopping tools, like HSA calculators and procedure pricing tools.
- Research online tools. Online pricing and quality tools exist, although many are a work-in-progress. Use them as a guide to making decisions about healthcare. The following are a few examples: The Leapfrog Group, Healthcare Bluebook, Healthgrades, and New Choice Health.
Don’t be afraid to ask. There is a big stigma when it comes to healthcare services about asking for more information or finding out about pricing. It shouldn’t have to be a black box.
3. Get Involved in Your Healthcare
What do you do when your doctor prescribes medication? Do you simply go to the pharmacy and fill the prescription? Or do you ask how it helps? Possible side effects? If there is a less expensive alternative? Many of us never question our treatment. If you want to be a better consumer, get involved in your healthcare. Just because you ask questions doesn’t mean that you all of sudden will get worse care. The best decisions are informed ones!
4. Ask Questions
The best way to get involved is by asking questions. Understand why your doctor recommends a certain treatment. Ask if there are other, perhaps less aggressive, alternatives to care. Ask for a second opinion on major surgeries. Ask what you can do to improve your health.
5. Check Your Bills
Studies vary on the percentage of medical bills that contain errors. It happens enough that you should think twice about paying a bill without checking. Have you ever noticed the error is rarely in your favor? Some employers who sponsor health benefits contract with advocacy groups that help check medical bills for accuracy. Medical Billing Associates of America offers resources for you.
Manage your healthcare expenses like you would for any major purchase. Get educated – know your options – spend wisely. Invest in your health®.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.