It’s always important to look for ways to cut back on spending, but there are some costs that are difficult to eliminate. One of the hardest budget items to cut back on is the one that concerns your well-being and safety. Health care costs an average of $5,276 per person according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These costs only rise as one gets older. While average expenses for those age 45 to 54 are just under the average, the cost doubles for those age 65 to 74, and only continues to increase. Taking steps to reduce your medical bills now may leave more money left to plan for the future.
- “If you are relatively healthy, a low premium plan may allow you to save.”
Make the right choice
The biggest way to save on medical costs is by picking the insurance plan that will allow you to do so. U.S. News & World Report suggested as much in their guide to slashing medical expenses. Familiarize yourself with the terms in your insurance and what exactly they mean. Perhaps the biggest determinant of your out-of-pocket costs are the premium and deductible. The premium is easy to understand: It’s the price you pay for coverage no matter what. The deductible is more complicated. It is the highest amount you will pay out of pocket for a procedure.
Some plans also have an annual deductible, which will be the most you would pay for an entire year of services. If you or your family expects to have high medical bills, whether because of chronic illnesses or the need for frequent treatments, consider paying a higher premium plan that has a low deductible and co-payments. If you are single, young and relatively healthy, low premium plans may allow you to save, despite the higher deductible.
While health care can be very expensive, many insurers and banks offer various ways to reduce your costs. One of the most popular is a health savings account, or HSA. These are particularly useful with high-deductible plans because they allow you to save money to offset high medical bills. These accounts are known as “triple tax-free” because neither the money put in, taken out or interest earned is subject to tax (in most cases). You can also check with your insurer to learn about any discount programs they may offer. Some insurance plans offer a discount to a health club membership, ability to participate in health screenings and other options that can improve your health. Research these options and take advantage of them to get the most out of your health coverage.
Just like with any other major purchase, it’s important to check the price of surgeries or other expensive procedures to see if you can save by going to another facility. As Bankrate suggests, you can compare the cost of a procedure by acquiring the current procedural terminology code, or CPT code. This is a standardized system for hospital billing and will allow you to compare prices at different hospitals. Using this information, you can call a hospital and request to speak to the billing department. It may take some persistence, but you should be able to find out what they charge for the procedure. You might be able to ask your original hospital to match a lower price, or negotiate a prompt payment discount. Bankrate also pointed out that hospitals are willing to help people who are under-insured and unable to pay the full cost on their own. You may be able to arrange a payment plan or reduced bill simply by asking.
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