This is a guest post from Miranda Marquit. She edits information on debt consolidation for DestroyDebt.com. She also writes for the Personal Finance Corner on AllBusiness.com.
Before rising gas prices came and stole the spotlight, a lot of the national economic debate was centered around the rising cost of health care. Health insurance costs continue to rise: Even if you are healthy, your premium goes up every year. And, while you can't completely get rid of rising health insurance costs, you can reduce the amount you might be paying -- or at least slow the price increases.
Raise your deductible
This is the most basic way to reduce your health insurance costs. If you have a higher deductible (what you are required to pay out of pocket), your premiums are likely to drop. Before you make this move, however, evaluate your financial situation. Do you have an emergency fund that can help offset the cost of a higher deductible? A Health Savings Account can also be a way to plan for a higher deductible -- and get a tax benefit at the same time.
If you are in good health, and if you do not make very many trips to health care professionals, a higher deductible may be the way to go. However, you will need to be prepared for the unexpected. A higher deductible means that you are responsible for a larger portion of your costs if a large medical expense should come up.
Review your health insurance plan
Every year, review your health insurance plan. Do you have coverage that you do not need? A friend of mine realized that she still had maternity coverage -- three years after having her tubes tied. Once she dropped her maternity coverage, the cost of her insurance premiums dropped significantly. This can also apply to other types of coverage that you may have -- but do not need. A friend of mine was surprised to find that his health insurance plan covered "alternative" treatments, like acupuncture, that he had no interest in. He saw savings when he altered his plan.
Avoid the emergency room if possible
For the uninsured, the emergency room is often the only place they can get medical care. For the insured, however, it is a good idea to avoid the emergency room unless it is a true emergency. If you can manage until the next day when you can visit the doctor, do so. The emergency room is notoriously expensive, and if you use it, health insurance companies will have an excuse to jack up the cost of your coverage.
Try paying cash
One of my friends has an interesting way of paying for health care: He has as little coverage as possible, and pays cash for most health visits. Some health care professionals will now negotiate a 15, 20 or even 30 percent discount if you pay cash at the time of service. It saves the doctor from having to deal with the insurance company, and means immediate payment. You can keep basic coverage in the case of an emergency or an unforeseen hospital stay, and then pay cash for most of your other visits. This can help you keep your premium low, and the insurance company is less likely to make large increases in your premium if you don't use the insurance as much. A Health Savings Account can also help in this case.
Along with paying cash, you can also ask for generics when you have a prescription filled. Find out how much the generics cost, and decide whether you can get by paying for them out of pocket (Health Savings Account helps here as well). Even just requesting generics from your doctor can result in lower insurance premiums -- or at least a slower premium increase.Just like any other service you pay for, it is important to look at what you are getting and -- if possible -- shop around for the best price.
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