From high premiums for health insurance to rising deductibles and copayments, staying healthy has never been more expensive. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, just affording to go to the doctor can be a real struggle, and dealing with a serious illness is even worse.
While politicians and pundits argue about the future of health insurance and struggle to find a way forward, there are things ordinary consumers can do to tame the beast that is the modern healthcare landscape. Here are five things you can do right now to trim your healthcare costs and increase your odds of staying healthy.
#1. Be Proactive
Being proactive about your health is one of the best ways to not only trim the cost of healthcare but protect yourself as well. When flu season rolls around, make sure you are first in line for your shot. Ask your doctor about recommended health screenings for your age, discuss your family history and talk about smart ways to stay healthy.
Taking these proactive and common sense steps can reduce your need for expensive healthcare services, so you can worry less about deductibles and the high cost of prescription drugs. Simply eating a healthy diet is a good place to start, and you can ramp up your efforts from there.
#2. Choose a High-Deductible Health Plan
A high-deductible health insurance policy may not be the right choice if you have a chronic health condition, but if you are relatively healthy, you could save a ton of money by raising your deductible.
High-deductible health plans typically come with much lower premiums, so you can keep more money in your wallet month after month. You can use some of those savings to establish a cash cushion – an account you can draw on if you do face a serious health challenge down the road.
#3. Open a Health Savings Account
Health savings accounts, or HSAs, allow consumers to put aside pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible healthcare expenses. If you are eligible for a health savings account, you could get a big tax break now, and a secure way to pay for doctor visits, prescription drugs, and other costs later.
Unlike the money in a flexible spending account, the money in your HSA rolls over from year to year. That increases the value, and the flexibility, of the account, making it an excellent vehicle for tax savings and healthcare expenses. Some employers even offer health savings accounts as part of their annual enrollment periods.
#4. Talk to Your Doctor About Prescription Drug Prices
A surprising number of doctors know very little about prescription drug prices, and they do not always appreciate the impact those costs have on their patients. If you experienced sticker shock the last time you visited the pharmacy, talk to your doctor about those costs.
Your doctor can prescribe generic medications, which can save you a lot of money. Your physician may also switch you to older and less expensive drugs, medications with a proven track record and an affordable price tag. Either way, reducing the cost of your prescription medications is one of the best ways to slash your healthcare expenses.
#5. Use Your Flexible Spending Account to Lower Your Out-of-Pocket Costs
If your employer offers a flexible spending account, or FSA, signing up could save you a lot of money. Using the money in that account could save you even more since you will be paying for eligible costs with pre-tax dollars.
Start by knowing what you can, and cannot, pay for with your FSA dollars, then use the account to reduce your out-of-pocket costs and eligible healthcare expenses. You will be lowering your tax bill and saving money on healthcare at the same time.
The folks in Washington have been promising to tame health care costs for decades now, but the beast remains as wild as ever. If you want to get a handle on your own healthcare costs, you need to do it yourself, and the five tips listed above can help you get started.