Finding ways to maximize health care savings has become a major concern for many people in America.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is on the verge of elimination as President Trump’s administration continues to repeal the original law, including the potential end of government subsidies. For billions of U.S. health care consumers, this could possibly mean dramatic increases to plan premiums and fewer choices in plan options. Even employers are feeling the impact, with an expected 6.5 percent cost increase in 2018 (the first in three years), according to research from PwC’s Health Research Institute.
In order to make health care costs more manageable, here are ten low-cost ways to maximize your savings.
1. Focus on Preventive Care vs. Urgent Care
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are typically 141.4 million visits to U.S. emergency rooms and nearly 885 million doctor office visits annually. Much of the time, these visits are generated by minor health needs for medication or treatment for injuries and illnesses that could be prevented. While some consumers head to the emergency room because of the guarantee of care, as Debt.org points out, it is far less costly to use non-emergency care for routine health needs.
2. Utilize Health Care Savings Accounts and Incentives
Adults with high deductible health care plans are eligible to participate in a health savings account, which allows a portion of pretax earnings to be set aside for medically-related costs. In 2018, the IRS will allow individuals to contribute up to $3,450 (and $6,900 for family coverage) in a qualified HSA. This can help to defray the costs of medical copays and other out-of-pocket costs related to staying healthy.
3. Remember Cash-Only and Sliding Fee Clinics
Nearly all private doctor’s offices have services available for individuals who wish to self-pay rather than file insurance claims. Discounts for cash services and medical equipment can be as generous as 50 percent. Additionally, public health care clinics can provide medical services on a sliding income fee scale.
4. Consider Supplemental Benefits With High Deductible Plans
While a growing number of companies only offer high deductible health care plans, the use of voluntary and supplemental plans is on the rise. An Employee Benefit Advisor article details the reasons why voluntary plan adoption has increased—including the ability of these plans to offset costs.
5. Get Free and Reduced-Price Mammograms and Routine Tests
All communities have programs that are funded by the government, as well as public health programs that offer various health screenings. For example, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, many hospitals and clinics offer free mammograms. This can help consumers save money on health care and catch cancer early.
6. Track Health With Fitness Devices
Numerous employers have begun to offer some type of wearable fitness technology to track participation in corporate wellness programs. However, many employees may be unaware that these same fitness trackers offer generous incentives and discounts through special apps and health programs that are sponsored by drug store chains. Some health care plans also offer discounts on insurance premiums for regular participation in fitness and walking programs.
7. Participate in Employer-Sponsored Wellness Services
On top of using wearable fitness devices independently, employees can reduce health problems by participating in corporate wellness programs. Employers may offer a wide variety of onsite health support, including walking and biking trails, fitness club membership discounts, healthy meal preparation services and more.
8. Get Flu Shots Annually
Each year, the flu impacts thousands of employees and businesses. For this reason, most employers now offer free or reduced-cost flu shots to help employees save on their health costs and prevent serious illness from hampering productivity.
9. Take Advantage of Tax Credits for Medical Expenses
Many employees do not realize that they should be tracking all costs associated with their health care. For example, mileage to and from doctor’s appointments, travel costs for out-of-town specialist care, out-of-pocket medication costs, monthly premiums and medical equipment can all be itemized as a deduction on annual income taxes.
10. Leverage Health Care Cooperatives
If families are struggling to obtain affordable health care through employers and public health exchanges, there are other legal options to avoid incurring penalties. Health care cooperatives maintained by religious and non-profit organizations can help reduce costs. These programs work by sharing the costs of medical care across a large network of individuals and families, as well as shopping around for the least expensive services and negotiating with doctor’s offices to accept lower fees.