Cutting Health Insurance Costs: Strategies for Today’s Families

As the cost of health care increases, so does the strain on household budgets. A majority of today’s families are barely getting by, and an increasing number of households are living with no health insurance at all. In fact, more than 46 million Americans now live uninsured–and that number increases by the year.Health insurance is designed to protect you and your family from expense in case of accidents or illness. Doctor bills; hospitalization; medical tests and treatments; rehabilitation, and maternity/pediatric care…all fall within these bounds.So what’s a family to do if it needs health insurance protection but doesn’t have much to spend?Getting Cheap Health InsuranceThe less likely you are to need health care, the less you’ll pay for your health insurance coverage. Therefore, finding ways to reduce your claims risk increases your chances of getting the cheap health insurance rates you deserve.If your family needs cheap health insurance and you’re not sure how to get it, use these money-saving strategies to reduce your health insurance premiums:

Take care of your bodies. Get regular exercise; eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and see your doctor for routine check-ups and health care advice. Don’t drink or smoke.

If you do what’s necessary to maintain your health, you’ll reduce your health care costs in the long run–reducing, in turn, your health insurance costs.

Set your deductibles high. What is a deductible? It’s simply the amount you have to pay on your medical bills before your health insurance kicks in and pays the rest.

According to experts, it’s not uncommon for families to save up to 25 percent on health insurance premiums with a high deductible plan. The more responsibility you take for the cost of your medical care, the less responsibility your health insurance company has to carry–and the lower your health insurance rates will be.

Find a group policy. Group health insurance is always less expensive. This is because the financial risk to the health insurance company is spread amongst the entire group, instead of resting solely on you.

Look for group health insurance through your employer, or through community or professional organizations to which you belong.

Buy early.The younger you are when you purchase health insurance, the lower your premiums will be. This is because your risk of health-related issues increases as you get older.

Buying health insurance early on means your family saves on monthly premiums, as well as over the life of the policy.

Coordinate your coverages. If you and your spouse both work and have health insurance available, compare plans–and choose the best parts of each. Sharing expenses between more than one insurance plan makes things cheaper for both health insurance companies–and for you.

Your family’s health insurance premiums don’t have to eat into the household budget–or your bank account. Use these strategies to get cheap health insurance protection, and you’ll be prepared for whatever comes your way.

The Ball’s In Your Court – Consumer – Driven Health Insurance On The Rise In Texas

If you were given just $1,500 to purchase groceries annually, you’d be a lot more careful about how you spend your money. You’d peruse the supermarket flyers, shop around for the best deals, and forgo the more expensive items, like lobster and steak. This is exactly the kind of “consumer-driven” behavior some employers in Dallas, Houston and all around Texas are hoping to spark in you and your co-workers by offering “consumer-driven” and defined-contribution health insurance plans.You have to pay very close attention to understand the costs and consequences of your health care decisions. For example, with a $20 co-payment, you can get a cholesterol-lowering prescription drug that actually retails for $100 per month, compared to changing your diet or increasing the amount you exercise. But if you had to pay full price for your medical care and prescriptions, most everyone would think more carefully before shelling out their own money.Even though the line is blurring between consumer-driven and defined-contribution health plans, there are differences. Under a defined contribution scenario, your employer pre-screens and pre-selects a variety of health plans and then gives you cash, or vouchers, to buy a policy. Your employer then bows out. If you choose a plan costing more than your employer’s contribution, you must pay the difference.With the consumer-driven approach, your employer still contracts with insurers for group health insurance and still retains some measure of control over your health insurance purchasing decisions. What these plans do is give you more choice in terms of benefit levels — you choose your own deductible — and you can see any doctor you want without a referral. However, the plans also increase your share of the costs and risks.Plans such as these are still relatively new — many only a few years old — and there’s no immediate way to judge their impact on health insurance costs or how popular they will be with employers. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), less than one percent of all employer-sponsored health insurance is currently comprised of consumer-driven and defined contribution plans. But it’s clear from the growing popularity of consumer-drive plans that employers are looking for relief from skyrocketing health insurance costs and are expressing increasing interest in this benefit design.Depending on how your employer sets up your consumer-driven health plan, you may be able to choose your deductible and that choice will determine your portion of the plan’s premium. A higher deductible generally means you’ll pay less in premiums, a lower deductible generally means you’ll pay more. But estimating how much medical care you will need in any given year can be tricky — particularly when you’ve always plunked down a small co-payment and you’ve never bothered to look at your doctor’s itemized bill.Let’s say you’re a young, single, healthy individual and you know you’ll have one routine physical exam during the year. Even if you figure in the costs of treatment for an ear infection and add an unexpected minor injury such as a cut on your head that necessitates stitches, you figure you’ll still be way under the $500 your employer puts into your personal health care account. You’ll probably never have to spend a dime of the $1,000 deductible out of your own pocket, right?Well, not necessarily. According to the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, the average doctor’s fee for stitches to close a minor cut on your head — not including anesthesia, hospital, or laboratory fees — is $334. Add a routine physical exam ($175) and a doctor’s visit for an ear infection ($32) and your total is $541. And that’s without paying for any laboratory tests or prescription medicines. Even if your health insurer has negotiated discounted fees with your provider, these charges can still quickly add up. So, if you can’t afford to pay $1,000 out of your own pocket, you might be better off opting for a lower deductible, if there is that option, and paying a little more up front in monthly premiums.Just as it would be difficult for you to plan your food budget for a year if none of the items in your supermarket carried price labels, it would likewise be hard for you to choose your consumer-driven health insurance plan and your deductible level if you’re not sure up front how much your medical providers charge for certain procedures.Some critics of health insurance plans also fear consumer-driven plans punish the sick because the sick visit their doctors more often and need more expensive treatments. But think again if you define “the sick” as only those who suffer from life-threatening illnesses. The sick also include the one in four Americans who have common chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or mood disorder. According to the Yale School of Medicine, these five conditions cost Americans more than $62 billion a year in treatment costs alone. Critics are concerned that “consumerism” will cause employees to skip needed care, both necessary and preventive, in order to save money.Another big question is trying to define just how well employees understand their new consumer-driven health plans. There is plenty of evidence that shows that many employees don’t understand how health insurance works at all. According to D.S. Howard & Associates, in a June 2001 survey, 100 large employers — those with 500 or more employees — reported that 54 percent said that most or some of their employees think the rules about health insurance coverage are difficult to understand and 48 percent say most or some find health plans too complex and hard to understand.Complicating matters further is that HMO plans are heavily structured; so most people don’t really need to understand how they work in order to use them. Consumer-driven health plans have much less structure — requiring you to understand how they work, how much you pay and how you can reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Consumer-driven health insurance plans are often accompanied by Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).If you’re interested in reducing your healthcare costs by getting more engaged as a healthcare consumer, you should take a look at the revolutionary, comprehensive individual health insurance solutions created by Precedent specifically for young, healthy individuals. For more information, visit us at our website, [http://www.precedent.com]. We offer highly competitive HSA-qualified plans, together with other unique and innovative individual health insurance solutions and an unparalleled “real time” application and acceptance experience.

How to Get Health Insurance If You’re Uninsured Or Just Unsure

If you’ve recently lost your job or are self employed or work as a freelancer, you may not have health insurance. You’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands go uninsured due to financial reasons.Others may be staying in jobs they hate “because I need the health benefits” and they worry about what to do if they make a transition. You’re not alone either. Good health is a huge priority. Without that, everything else can fall apart.I’m a strong advocate for taking preventative health measures. But part of taking preventative measures is making sure you see your physician for annual general checkups along with followups, and seeing a physician when you know something is wrong.Since it can be confusing navigating where to go to obtain health insurance during such times, I thought the following might help.The American Diabetes Association has put together a very helpful resource guide for you. I’ve used New York here, since many of you reside there but you can get the same information for ANY state by clicking on your state on the red map on their website.NEW YORKThe following information details health insurance and assistance programs available to uninsured people in New York.If you currently have health insurance or have just lost health insurance coverage within the past 60 days, visit the health insurance section of the American Diabetes Association website for options available to you.New York Insurance Department – (800) 342-3736Residents of New York cannot be turned down from purchasing an individual health insurance policy regardless of any health conditions they may have. This is called guaranteed issue. In addition, residents cannot be charged a higher rate for their policy because of their health status. This is called community rating. The New York Insurance Department may be able to help you locate names and phone numbers of possible insurers who will sell you this type of policy. Please contact them for more information.If you are having a problem with your state-regulated health plan and you are unable to resolve it with the plan directly, file a complaint with the Insurance Department. They may be able to provide you with assistance in reaching a conclusion.New York Health Insurers Guide AvailableThe New York Consumer Guide to Health Insurers provides information about the wide range of health care options available in in the state and enables New Yorkers to compare commercial and non-profit health insurers as well as health maintenance organizations (HMOs) on a variety of factors, from services offered to overall consumer satisfaction. This guide can assist you in finding the best health care plan for you and your family.New York Medicaid – (518) 486-9057Medicaid is available to anyone who meets income and eligibility criteria. Even if your income meets the criteria, you must fall into one of the eligibility categories in order to qualify. Contact your state Medicaid program for more information.Healthy New York – (866) 432-5849The goal of the Healthy NY program is to provide health insurance coverage to eligible uninsured working individuals and self-employed individuals. This program is also available to small businesses that are not currently offering health insurance coverage to their employees. You must meet certain income eligibility criteria to qualify. Please contact Healthy New York for more information.Child Health Plus (CHPlus) – State Children’s Health Insurance Program –
(800) 698-4543Child Health Plus is the health insurance program designed to provide health insurance to children and teens under age 19 whose family may have too great an income to qualify for Medicaid, but who may not be able to afford health insurance. Visit the Web site to find out if you or your child meets the income guidelines.New York Family Health Plus – 1-877-934-7587Family Health Plus is a health care program for uninsured adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who have incomes too high to qualify for New York ‘s Medicaid program. Family Health Plus is available to single adults, couples without children, and parents with limited incomes. Individuals must meet residency and certain immigration qualifications to be eligible.If you or your loved one is unable to see a physician due to the cost of care, there may be a local community health clinic in your area. These clinics generally are free or require a very small fee for patients to receive care. Find a clinic in your area.For those with preexisting conditions, there are advocacy groups working on your behalf. If you have trouble finding one, message me and I’ll send you a link.Also, if any freelancers have had a good or bad experience with certain health insurances, please message me as it’d be helpful to know which ones are working well and which are not.Hope this helps.Quick Link to Map for Health Insurance in other States: