It’s decision time for your health insurance once again. Take the time between now and December to look into your options and save on next year’s medical costs.
Open enrollment for health coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2017 begins on Nov. 1 and if you sign up by Dec. 15 your coverage will begin along with the New Year. The last day to enroll in coverage is Jan. 31, 2017.
It isn’t always easy to see how health insurance saves you money, but there are steps you can take to make sure you’re not wasting money and your coverage fits your needs.
1. Employer Options
According to Aflac, an estimated 42 percent of employees waste $750 on employee insurance benefit mistakes like always choosing the same option each year and not researching what else is out there. Ninety percent of employees select the same plan as before without vetting their options. That means if you don’t look things over you have a 1 in 2 chance of wasting money on your health insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays or any other expenses that you could incur.
Be a good comparison shopper and see what your work offers and what the best plan for you and your family actually is. Your employer may not be ready to provide all the information on Nov. 1, but they’ll have it for you before the end of the year.
2. Public Options
In the meantime, Healthcare.gov or your state marketplace can help you search for local providers of quality health plans for you to check out your alternatives. The Wall Street Journal has a quick guide on How to Shop for Health Insurance along with a glossary for all the terms you may run into when comparing one plan to another.
If you know specific things your plan needs to include, it doesn’t hurt to know your other options outside of your employer’s plans.
3. Tax Benefits
Use an FSA or HSA account to make contributions pre-tax and put money away for your medical care without paying tax on it first.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey, 28 percent of covered workers are now enrolled in a high deductible health plan and 19 percent are enrolled in an HSA-qualified plan.
Many employer HSAs also include an employer match for certain plans. A matching contribution to your health care can make the high deductible part of the plan a little more palatable for your pocketbook.
There are also non-insurance options for saving money on health and medical services. They can include discount health plans from you employer, discount companies, or other organizations for their members (dental, vision, chiropractic and other services). For instance, AARP provides supplemental plans, vision and dental savings to members as well as help finding options if you’re on a low income.
5. Prescription Drugs
Shop around for cheap local options for prescription drugs. Whether it’s the pharmacy inside your grocery store or the stand-alone pharmacy on the corner, check to see how much your typical prescriptions will cost and if there are any reward programs that will help save money. Also check if you can fill prescriptions for 90 days instead of monthly to save you money. If you have a choice, go with the generic or the cheapest option from your insurer to save money on the pills themselves.
6. Don’t be a High Utilizer
Avoid the emergency room at all costs, because it will be costly. A 2011 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that appropriate and timely care reduced ER visits by 800 percent and costs by nearly $1 million for a group of 30 patients that were high utilizers. Those savings came out to 26 fewer visits and $35,000 less per patient.
Stay on top of your health with preventive screenings and visits to make sure you’re as healthy as can be. Emergencies happen, but taking care of your health regularly will cut your costs and visits to the emergency room.
Probably the greatest area of savings from a health insurance plan is the discount that is given for in-network care. The already negotiated price for medical care is given to everyone with certain health plans. Yes, you may only pay your co-pay anyway, but that’s possible because of the discount provided or agreed upon by the medical provider and your insurance company.
7. Enrolling in a Health Plan
As noted above, anyone can enroll in a health plan between Nov. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017, but if something happens and you need to adjust your health coverage there are reasons you can enroll in a new plan throughout the year.
The special enrollment periods allow you to enroll in a new plan because you have lost your health coverage, had a baby, adopted a child, were divorced, a family member died, you moved, you suffered a significant change in income, gained citizenship or were released from jail.
If you’re able to plan out the next year, then you’ll also know if any of those things could possibly affect you over the next 12 months. You can be prepared for making that change in health coverage when it or if it happens.
Getting behind on medical bills can be a difficult position, but Mvelopes can help organize your budget so you can pay off your debt faster and put your money toward accomplishing your financial goals. Take advantage of a free debt analysis to get a look at just how quickly you can prioritize your budget and pay off your debt.