7 tips to pay less for health insurance
Health insurance policies -- and their premiums -- vary widely. But you have more control over your costs and coverage than you might think.
This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.
Last week was the second anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- "health care reform" to its supporters, "Obamacare" to detractors. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing legal arguments about the law and may strike none, part, or all of it.
That makes this a good time to give your health insurance a checkup. If the cost of your coverage is entirely borne by your employer, you should still understand your policy. And if you cover the cost yourself, you're already aware of the bite it takes our of your budget. Learning what you're paying for and how it works allows you to make decisions that can lower the cost. In the video below, Stacy Johnson offers some tips on shopping for health insurance. Check it out, then read on for more details.
As you heard in the video, prices for insurance can vary widely. Fortunately, you have some control. Here are the key factors you need to know to manage the cost of your coverage:
On the other hand, if you can't afford to cover a big deductible, you might not seek the care you need if you get sick. That can lead to bigger problems -- medical and financial -- down the road. You can learn more about the pros and cons of high-deductible plans, and the health savings accounts they're often paired with, in "Is high-deductible health insurance healthy?"
When comparing plans, compare negotiated rates for common expenses like office visits and lab work. (And know what preventive services are covered under the law, so you don't have to go through what Stacy did.) Some plans may also offer discounts for things that help you get healthy, like weight loss or quit-smoking programs.
How can you compare negotiated rates? Ask your doctor. For example, if your doctor accepts insurance from multiple carriers, ask which one has the lowest negotiated rates for common procedures.
The higher your deductible, the more important it is to find the lowest negotiated rates.
Co-pays and stop loss. Co-pays and co-insurance are expenses you share with the insurer. So if you have an 80/20 co-pay, your insurer covers 80% of the tab and you pick up 20%. When the total amount you've paid meets your stop loss, your insurer picks up the entire bill. The higher the stop loss, also called an out-of-pocket maximum, the lower the rate will be.
As you shop, don't forget the golden rule for health insurance, as well as any other kind you might consider: Make sure your new policy is in effect before you drop an old one. Never, ever be uninsured, even for a day.
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:
- 5 reasons we need free credit scores now
- The most important 6 seconds of your career
- 5-minute lifesaver: ICE your cell phone
- Long-term care: How much will it cost?
- What if you got hit by a bus?
- How to haggle over medical bills
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