Whether you’re covered by individual health care insurance or an employer-sponsored insurance plan, health insurance premiums are rising faster than wages or inflation. If you haven’t noticed the pinch yet, chances are you will and you will need to know how to control health care costs. Perhaps you’ll see an increase in your monthly premium or you’ll be asked by your boss to contribute a bigger percentage toward the plan. If actual out-of-pocket costs don’t increase, you may find your benefits reduced. In a worst-case scenario, you might be one of the millions of workers whose employers plan to drop health insurance coverage altogether, as forecast by a recent McKinsey and Company survey.
There are plenty of reasons why health care costs and health insurance premiums are going up. You can read about some of them Part I of this series. More importantly, however, is knowing what you can do to control health care costs.
- Get healthy and stay healthy. Sounds obvious, but over-utilization is one of the drivers of increased health care costs and rising health insurance premiums. The more responsibility you take for your personal health by eating right, exercising and avoiding risky lifestyle choices, the less likely you are to need health care. It may not affect your premiums, but it will lower your out-of-pocket expenses.
- Instead of paying for an office visit, take advantage of free and low-cost screening services, vaccinations and evaluations offered at local health fairs, health care facilities and pharmacies.
- Learn about self-examination procedures for common cancers and practice them.
- Self-monitor existing health conditions and be stringent about taking prescribed medications.
- If you are sick or show early warning signs of a health condition, go to a doctor immediately. Small problems can quickly become major medical issues if neglected.
- Become an educated consumer of health care and health insurance. Shop for competitive quotes from top insurance companies so you can compare plans and make an informed decision.
- If you have health care provider options, compare fees for services and procedures.
- Don’t buy more insurance than you need. If you’re relatively healthy, consider a high-deductible health insurance policy tied to a Health Savings Account.
- Make the most of face-time with your doctor. Prepare questions in advance and take a written list to your appointment.
- Substitute generic drugs for brand-name drugs whenever possible.
- Avoid emergency rooms. If you can, wait till you can get in to see your regular doctor. If you can’t wait, consider going to an urgent care facility, instead of a more costly ER.