5 Ways To Reduce Your Health Care Costs

Adjust Your Deductible

The two main component of a health insurance plan are the premium and costs you pay for health care via your co-pay, co-insurance and deductible. The more you agree to pay for your health care, the less your monthly premium will be. Insurance companies know that when people have a financial stake in their own health care bills they tend to be more judicious in their use of medical services. Agreeing to pay a higher deductible, or rate of co-insurance, will result in lower monthly premiums. Sometimes these reductions can be quite significant and if saved will cover most if not all of the cost of the higher deductible.

This approach is less effective for people who use a lot of health care services every year, racking up large bills. However, for people who are generally health and don’t use a lot of health care, they can realize dramatic savings using a high deductible health plan. Plans with high premiums are guaranteed to cost you a lot of money even if you don’t go to the doctor. Plans with high deductibles will only cost you a lot if you actually use medical services.

Use Tax Advantages

There are a few ways to reduce your health insurance costs using the income tax system. The first and most common way is to use a health savings account otherwise known as an HSA. An HSA is a special banking account you are allowed to put pretax money in to spend on health care costs. The money you put into your health savings account does not get taxed as regular income. Depending on the tax bracket you are in, this can be a significant discount on health care costs. Many health care plans do not cover things like maternity, dental services and eye care. However, these services can be paid for out of an HSA.

To be eligible for an HSA, you must have a high deductible health insurance plan that meets the IRS requirements for health savings accounts. Generally you have to carry a high deductible and the plan has to have limits on total out of pocket cots.

If you are facing large health care bills, you may be able to deduct them from your income tax. You are allowed to deduct any medical expenses above 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. There are a wide variety of services that can be included in this amount, even a mileage deduction for transportation to and from the hospital. Make sure to consult a tax advisor if you choose to go this route.

Use your free Preventive Care

All health insurance plans are now required to provide free preventive care, so make sure you use it. Routine checkups and some testing is free for adults. Well baby visits and immunizations are free for children. These are significant benefits so make sure you are taking full advantage of them.

Shop Around

One of the reasons health care has become so expensive is there is little price competition. Don’t be afraid to ask what a doctor charges, especially for planned or expected health care. Some hospitals can be very competitive on price for services like labor and delivery, while others can be quite expensive. Don’t assume health care costs the same everywhere, it certainly does not.

Emergency rooms are especially to be avoided if you are looking to reduce your health care costs. They should only be used for true emergencies. For non life threatening medical issues like ear infections or even a cut requiring stitches, consider using an urgent care or local clinic. The costs of services at these locations can be a tenth of what an emergency room will charge.

Stay Healthy

This may sound like tired advice, but staying out of the hospital is the best way to reduce your costs. Try putting everyday activities in terms of what they may cost you in the long run. Sitting on the couch with a big bowl of ice cream is much more expensive than a nice walk outside. If living a long life isn’t enough motivation to be healthy now, consider that your unhealthy lifestyle will cost you a lot of money in health care costs.

How the Power in a Simple Values Statement Can Help to Reduce Rising Health Care Costs

Values statements are part of the overall strategic planning process. This simple statement has potentially untapped power to reduce one of the greatest challenges facing any business – rising health care costs.

To begin to understand how this can be done is to truly understand what a value statement really is. This is truly an agreement that everyone from the top down to the bottom up demonstrated those specific behaviors. Given the purpose of this is the underlying belief that said behaviors will help and maintain the viability of the organization, then it seems reasonable for the organization to be healthy each individual within that entity is also healthy.

Now since 70% of health care costs can be directly attributed to individuals’ unhealthy behaviors, then connecting the values statement to the behaviors of all employees is strategic in nature and truly, pardon the expression, a no-brainer. Unfortunately, many businesses have failed to make this most logical connection and have suffered the consequences of rising health care costs.

Additional health care research has proven that preventive services found within some Employee Assistance Programs do not stem the tide of rising health care costs. The reason is quite simple. External actions to behavioral control are fare less effective than internal ones. When individuals own their behaviors and accept the consequences or the rewards for said behavior, sustainability is far more likely to happen.

Of course, if an innovative organization decides to connect the Values Statement to healthy behaviors, then existing policies and procedures may also need to be reviewed. The reason for this is that some organizations intentionally and unintentionally reward poor behaviors while punishing good behaviors. This can be usually observed in performance appraisals where employees are verbally recognized for their outstanding contributions, but the written documentation shows their performance to be average.

Values Statements can indeed reverse the trend of rising health care costs. All it takes is a well communicated commitment from management and reinforcement using proven tools for all employees.

Lower Health Care Costs – What Some Companies Are Doing to Help

It’s not all bad new out there for Health Care these days. There is good news. You just have to know where to look for it unfortunately.

Before the new health care reform, some insurance companies were already making concentrated efforts to lower health care costs. Health care costs are a responsibility of every player in the health care system including hospitals, doctors and other staff, insurance companies and yes, even “we” the patients. Costs are rising from several factors and we consumers can play a big role in helping to reduce costs.

So what are insurance companies doing to help? One company has an independent service that works to help keep your costs as low as possible. How you ask? Some Companies are providing advocates that will make costs more transparent so you can make decisions that can lower your overall cost

What if we could know up front how much a procedure would cost? How many times do we just shake our head in agreement when the doctor advises that we need a specific test or procedure? Of course we want to follow doctors orders, but why do we proceed so quickly without even knowing what this could cost us in the end?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an “estimate” of the procedure? Did you know for example that lab facilities vary widely in their fees for tests? By knowing what labs in our neighborhood charged for certain tests we could have more control and make a more informed decision that could positively effect the end cost of our own health care dollar.

Some services even offered cash rewards for using their program to “shop” for specific procedures such as MRI’s, CT Scans, Colonoscopies and more. Upon reviewing this independent service I found these other benefits:

1. Explanation on how best to use your benefits
2. Help you work through claims and billing issues
3. Negotiate with out-of-network providers
4. Clarify the amount you can expect to pay for health care services.

Don’t forget that this was an independent company not affiliated with a specific insurance company. Insurance companies seem to be seeking to add this value to their plans to make consumers aware of services like these that can be a benefit to the entire health care system.