Healthy & balanced ways to lower your medical expenses

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An epidemic in the U.S. is affecting increasing numbers of people, regardless of age, financial status, or career. As the cost of medical services rises, so does the cost of health insurance that adequately covers those expenses.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey found that the average family premium has increased 22% in the last five years and 54% over the last 10 years.

On top of that, more people face growing out-of-pocket expenses beyond the monthly payments. These include deductibles, co-pays and fees for out-of-network service providers.

It’s easy to feel sick about having to pay so much to stay well. Instead, keep reading to see some strategies for minimizing your healthcare costs.

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1. Select the best health plan for your situation

If you and your dependents tend to be fairly healthy, then you might want to consider a health plan with a higher deductible. These insurance plans often come with a much lower monthly premium.

Search for high-deductible health plans at eHealthInsurance, a national health insurance agency created in partnership with the National Federation of Independent Businesses

You can get online health insurance quotes and compare health plans. Also, within your state, you can visit your health insurance marketplace, such as Covered California.

In addition to cost and deductible amount, consider the basic types of plans before you commit. Know whether an HMO, PPO, EPO or POS plan fits your medical needs and budget. 

Then look at what is covered across the levels within those plans. This includes considering the type of services covered and the percentage you’ll end up paying out-of-pocket. Think about who you need to cover, existing or chronic health issues, and potential future medical needs.

All of these factors go into selecting a health plan where you’ll get the most coverage at the best price so you don’t end up paying for options you don’t need.

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2. Tap into employer wellness programs

Whether you are a full-time employee or a remote employee with benefits, look for opportunities such as specific wellness programs that promote good health while reducing your own outlay for those services.

Some of these employer wellness programs might include disease management services for free flu shots, smoking cessation, cancer screenings and access to physicians for physicals and health queries.

If your company offers on-site gyms, massages, and physical therapy, explore these benefits. Anything that helps you feel better and cuts those costs will ease the pressure on your budget

If you are considering switching jobs or are currently looking for a full-time position, then you may want to pay more attention to employer benefits packages. Often, these additional benefits are worth their weight in gold and can be a deciding factor, especially if salary and other options are similar.

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3. Start and contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA)

An HSA is a tax-exempt account that is made available through high-deductible health insurance plans. It offers many benefits that make it an ideal strategy for saving money as a small business owner or employee.

The funds you put into the account are tax-free, and when you withdraw money to pay for medical expenses, this is also considered tax-free.

It’s an ideal strategy if you don’t regularly visit a doctor. Moreover, the funds can be used for all types of things, including illnesses, accidents and even dental or vision care. While HSAs don’t help you avoid out-of-pocket medical expenses altogether, they do help alleviate some of the financial burdens.

Each year, the annual contribution limits for HSA tend to change. In 2020, the IRS noted that the annual limit on HSA contributions will be $3,550 for self-only and $7,100 for family coverage. This is approximately a 1.5% increase from 2019’s HSA contribution limits.

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4. Leverage health discount cards

Depending on your personal need, you may be able to forego dental or vision insurance and just opt for a discount card for those services instead. These health discount costs mean no monthly premiums to pay for coverage that you aren’t actually using. You’ll just pay an annual membership fee to keep your health discount card active.

For example, there are dental savings plans from providers like Careington and Carefree Dental that give you between 10 and 60% off the cost of certain dental procedures. Other discount services offer similar savings for things like glasses and contacts, hearing aids, prescriptions and more.

These health discount cards don’t interfere with your health insurance. That means you can use your insurance first and then turn to the health discount card to cover what the insurance does not.

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5. Focus on your personal health and wellness

It may sound obvious that taking care of yourself means spending less on co-pays for doctor visits or hospital stays, as well as lower costs for prescriptions. Yet many people still fail to prioritize their personal health and wellness. 

Consider the fact that if you take care of yourself, you’ll miss fewer days of work. To a self-employed person who doesn’t get paid sick days, this can mean more money in the bank on top of lower medical costs that get paid out-of-pocket.

Besides eating right, getting ample sleep, maintaining healthy behaviors and exercising, you can also be proactive by getting immunizations for things like the flu, pneumonia and shingles.

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6. Compare and Review

Whether you’re self-employed or work for a company, and whether you’re single or married with children, personal situations change each year. That’s why it’s important to regularly review your health insurance and budget for medical costs.

Additionally, the healthcare and insurance environment is forever changing. You’ll want to see what’s different and how you can adjust your approach to limit what you spend while maximizing your health coverage.

This article originally appeared on the Debt.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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