Americans shopping for their own healthcare insurance can substantially cut premiums by following 10 simple steps, according to leading insurers.
Answer Financial Inc. (http://www.answerfinancial.com), cites the following cost-saving measures:
You can save money by comparison shopping and exploring various options such as higher deductibles. The lower your deductible, the higher your premium. Comparison shopping also allows you to determine the best cost-benefit value. For example, many plans cap coverage for serious illness so premiums may be lower than one with a high cap. Always compare benefits, deductibles and premiums and if you have a preferred physician, make sure that he or she is a participant in your plan.
Practice preventive care
Work out a schedule of preventive health screenings with your physician that are appropriate for your age and gender. Private screening companies offer a series of tests at low prices that can show if you need more intense screenings. The lower your medical bills, the lower your premiums will be, but don’t skimp on the basics.
Take an active role in health care decisions
Take the time to build a good relationship with your doctor and participate actively in your care. Every test and drug has some risk involved, and some tests may be defensive medicine. Ask what will happen if you choose not to take a drug or have a test. Your doctor may be able to suggest alternatives that are less risky and costly.
Avoid hospitalization whenever possible
Over half of all health care costs are for hospitalizations. Consider outpatient services or same day surgery as alternatives to hospitalization. Today there are more and better alternatives to surgery; always do your research before any major medical procedure.
Understand health risks
Good lifestyle choices, such as regular exercise and consumption of vegetables and fruits, have proven to make a huge positive difference on health even when started in older years. Choices such as smoking, alcohol and drug use, and poor nutrition contribute to a higher risk for health problems.
Contribute to employer sponsored healthcare savings account (HSA)
These tax-protected accounts of up to $10,000 annually can cover everything from the cost of band-aids to co-payments on doctor visits. HSA’s can be established by employers that only offer high-deductible healthcare insurance ($1,000 and over). HSA legislations went into effect last year and more employers are expected to set these up as a way to decrease insurance costs and offer a tax benefit for their employees.
Know what your medical benefits cover
Carefully study the medical benefits of various plans and always compare before you purchase. If you have a managed care plan, know about the plan’s grievance procedure and use it if you don’t feel you are getting adequate care. – do not be afraid to ask questions
Save the emergency room for emergencies
Emergency room charges can be much more costly than a doctor’s visit. These visits will also drive up your premium.
Check your hospital and doctor bills carefully
Billing errors are a common occurrence. Notify your hospital and health plan promptly when errors are found.
Try home remedies first
Eight out of 10 health problems can be treated at home. Make sure you have good first aid equipment on hand such as antibiotic cream and various size bandages. When you feel a cold coming on, try rest and over-the-counter treatments. By doing a good job of self-care, you can lower your health care costs by reducing doctor visits.
For more information, go to http://www.answerfinancial.com.
Steve Kroll is senior vice president of marketing at Answer Financial, Inc. (http://www.answerfinancial.com ). An acknowledged expert in consumer marketing, he has more than 17 years of experience as an executive in the financial services industry including six as president of his own consulting firm, The Kroll Group, Inc. , which specialized in retail financial products and payment systems. Its client base included affinity groups, Fortune 500 companies, management consulting firms and advertising agencies. Kroll’s marketing accomplishments include developing insurance and investment product offerings for Charles Schwab, Citibank, Household International and The Signature Group. He also has created multiple-useage incentive and retention programs for some of the nation’s leading credit card issuers and developed new lifestyle-and affinity-related credit cards that delivered an above-average response and usage rate. Kroll has also assisted in the development and marketing of Internet-based financial services for Wells Fargo, NYCE and American Skandia.