Given the scary state of the economy, many people are reconsidering all areas of their budgets these days. But if you’re young and fairly healthy, and have medical insurance, you probably haven’t given health-care costs a second thought. Think again—you could be overpaying in lots of little ways that really add up. Below are suggestions for reclaiming some of your hard-earned cash.
1 Review Your Insurance Options Regularly
Your workplace probably makes it easy to roll over your benefits selections each year without reviewing them. Resist the temptation! If your company offers two or more medical insurance options, check them annually to make sure you still have the most cost-effective one. Even if the plan names have stayed the same, what they cover can change a lot over time. Also, don’t assume that the cheapest way to get insurance is through your own company—if you have a spouse or domestic partner, you might get a better deal on his or her insurance plan. Websites like ehealthinsurance.com or vimo.com offer basic price and
2 Set Up a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
An FSA lets you put aside money from your paycheck before taxes to pay for medical and other health-related costs. Admittedly, taking advantage of an FSA may take a bit of effort. For example, you’ll need to calculate how much to hold back from your pay at the start of each year, and you’ll have to stay current on which expenses qualify. But using pretax money can cut your out-of-pocket medical costs by about one-third—possibly enough so that you can recover from any hassle on a beach in the Caribbean.
3 Research Your Drug Options
There are a number of ways to save money on prescription drugs. Generic versions of costlier name brands are often available, and most insurance companies also have lists of preferred drugs that will cost you less. Rxaminer.com is one great resource for checking out alternatives on a particular drug. Prices vary between pharmacies too, so it’s worth calling around if you have an expensive or recurring prescription to fill. Finally, use your doctor as a resource. She’ll be able to provide guidance on what’s best for your health as well as your wallet, and may even be able to offer you free samples of prescription drugs.
It’s a little-known fact that many out-of-pocket medical costs, co-pays, and deductibles are negotiable, especially if you can legitimately argue that they constitute a financial hardship. (Say, if you’ve just been laid off.) Remember—it never hurts to ask. If you’re looking at a particularly hefty bill for a hospital stay or feel your insurance company has denied you coverage for a procedure unfairly, check to see whether your company offers access to a patients’ advocacy service such as Health Advocate to help you navigate the system.
5 Pitch A Win/Win Money-Saving Idea to HR
Your company may consider offering a new health benefit if it doesn’t cost them much and will result in healthier, more productive employees. One example is the Weight Watchers at Work program, in which a company pays to have a Weight Watchers meeting leader come into the office once a week for a session with all interested employees. This saves you the time and expense of a personal membership.
6 Stay Alert For Hidden Perks
Your workplace or insurance carrier may offer perks that are easy to overlook if your employee manual or insurance literature is gathering dust at the back of your file cabinet. Common benefits include significant discounts on gym memberships or even on alternative wellness therapies like massage. Spa day, anyone?