In the last year, Americans have faced escalating health insurance costs and high-end deductibles. They often end up having to pay thousands of dollars before their insurance company even starts to pay for a portion of the expenses. It is estimated that over 40 percent of people have a high deductible healthcare premium, according to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Being assertive when shopping for health insurance can save you some headaches, and some money, in the future.
Consumers are not Saving to Meet Their Health Insurance Expenses
The vast majority of consumers are not saving to meet their deductible and healthcare expenses. Although, many people have savings plans that are geared towards healthcare expenses, very few actually place money into the account. As a result, many are faced with staggering out-of-pocket expenses that they cannot afford. Often the only option that they have is to discuss a payment plan with the hospital or clinic to satisfy the amount they owe or place the balance onto a credit card. Shopping around for health insurance can benefit your bank account if you take your time and do some research.
It Pays to Shop Around for Health Insurance
Most consumers simply purchase their health insurance plan from their employer thinking that they must be getting the best deal. However, that is often not the case. Many employer plans have extremely high deductibles and other downfalls. As a result, you could probably find a plan with more affordable out-of-pocket expenses by shopping around. Many people scoff at the healthcare insurance exchange but it is often a consumer’s best bet to find an affordable plan.
Here are several tips on how to shop for health insurance:
- Insurance Types: Review the types of health insurance that you need. There are three main types: medical plans (sold off-exchange), qualified health plans (sold off and on-exchange), and catastrophic plans. You will need to decide which one fits your unique needs.
- Enrollment Period: Know when your enrollment period starts and ends. Unless you experience a major life change, such as a marriage, you will not qualify for a special enrollment date. You will only be able to change your insurance coverage during open enrollment.
- Research: Research to figure out your complete insurance costs. Just because a plan has a cheap monthly price does not mean it does not have a steep, and often unaffordable, deductible. Pick a plan that not only meets your monthly budget but that’s cost sharing is also affordable if you should need to use the insurance.
- Networks: Familiarize yourself with the doctor and hospital networks that are used by the specific insurance plan because some hospitals and doctors offices charge more than others.
- Insurance Agent: Turn to a licensed insurance agent to answer all of your questions. If you are using the health exchange then do not hesitate to call their 1-800 number to ask questions before you make a purchase.
Research Healthcare Costs
Insurers, government agencies, Internet companies and medical-care providers are starting to provide sites where a consumer can research prices. Although the prices listed are not normally dead-on, they do provide a general idea of how much something is going to cost in your general geographic area.
Anytime someone starts to shop for savings, they should also take into consideration the quality of care being offered. Sites like Medicare’s HospitalCompare.hhs.gov and LeapfrogGroup.org offer references that are worth checking out.
Healthcare Pricing Tools
Many of the big name insurance companies such as WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group Inc., Humana Inc., Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp., have sites that feature healthcare pricing tools. Although they do not give exact prices, you can examine a general cost range for specific procedures.
Negotiating Lower Healthcare Costs
Consumers frequently do not realize that they can negotiate lower medical care costs to reduce their cost-sharing expenses. If a doctor’s office that you typically frequent is charging more for scans or services then other local practitioners then you should not be afraid to speak up and ask that your provider meets or beats their competitor’s prices. With the price of medical care skyrocketing, you must be proactive to gain the best savings.
Shopping Tips to Save Money on Healthcare Procedures
Here are several steps that every consumer should be using to guarantee that they receive the most affordable care.
- Compare Prices: Compare prices in the area to get a general idea of what procedures should be priced at.
- Negotiate Fees: Don’t be shy about talking to your doctor’s office over fees. Step forward and negotiate.
- Discuss Extended Payment Plans: Many hospitals and doctors offices encourage you to place your medical expenses on credit cards. This is ideal for them because they receive immediate payment but you are stuck paying high-interest credit card rates. Some healthcare providers offer payment plans that have little or no interest. You should ask the doctor’s office or hospital about their payment plans before sticking your balance onto a high-interest credit card.
- Payment Assistance Programs: You do not have to be at or below the poverty level to qualify for payment assistance programs. Don’t be afraid to ask about them.
Sadly, there is no end in sight to the rising cost of healthcare in America. With thousands of dollars at stake and mounting debts, consumers are faced with trying to save every dollar. Saving money on health insurance is just the start. Consumers must also save money on many other avenues of healthcare in order to pay their portion of the cost sharing expense.
The professionals at the Midland Group understand both sides of the story. They are always available to offer a helping hand when needed.