Nearly 40% of people have a health care plan with a high deductible. An even higher percentage of people wish they had a lower deductible (who wouldn’t?!). And with medical bills being the leading cause of bankruptcies, it is important to understand how to maximize your high deductible so that you can stay afloat in case something unexpected were to happen.
1. Find Out What’s Free
Many routine services are free. Instead of staying home to save money, you could get a free screening for preventative care. Common services covered are colonoscopies, mammograms, and vaccinations. About 90% of people with high deductible plans don’t know that such services are free. You can learn more about free services by viewing your policy details or giving your carrier a call.
2. Pay in Cash
See if you can get a discount by paying in cash. We know someone who had a high deductible who needed a $4,500 eye surgery. Because of his deductible, he was going to have to pay it in full. He called the doctor’s office and asked how much it would cost to pay in cash — only $1,500! It was a no-brainer. He paid in cash and saved $3,000.
3. Ask For An Alternative
Figure out whether there is a cheaper, alternative option. Doctors will provide you with the typical, recommended option. Sometimes, it can be pricer than other options that are just as effective. See if something else can be done to give you the help you need at a more reasonable price.
4. Get Generic Prescriptions
Consult your doctor about prescriptions and ask for a generic. Consumer Reports found that generic versions of the five most widely prescribed medications were 447% cheaper! How would you like to save 447%?
Take a look at GoodRx to compare prices for thousands of prescription drugs at more than 70,000 pharmacies.
5. Compare Provider Prices
Prices can vary wildly for the same procedure. Before scheduling a procedure, ask around — you may be surprised what other providers are charging. Even something as simple as a blood test can vary in price by $100. Bigger ticket items, like an MRI, can vary by $500+. It’s worth the time to learn what others are charging.
6. Use Caution During Wellness Visits
For most plans, a wellness visit is covered. However, not everything done during this visit is covered. A doctor might recommend a test (like a hearing test or an x-ray) that would be considered outside your wellness visit and would result in a charge. Before the test is performed, be sure to ask your doctor if it will be covered; but don’t refuse the test just because of the cost (you might need it!).
7. Stay In-Network
You will typically pay a lower rate by going to providers in your plan’s network. Additionally, only in-network charges count against your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum. So if you get a $10,000 surgery out-of-network on your $10,000 deductible and think that your next payment will be covered, you are wrong! An out-of-network service will NOT count against your deductible. You would have to pay towards that $10,000 on the next bill. If possible, stay in-network!
8. Open A Health Savings Account (HSA)
Most high deductible health plans give you the opportunity to open a health savings account (HSA). This account allows you to put money away to use specifically towards medical expenses. An HSA is tax-exempt, meaning you won’t pay taxes on the money earned and placed into the account. You can even get set up with your employer to have money from each paycheck sent directly to your HSA, pre-tax. Another nice feature to an HSA is that your funds roll over year after year. You don’t have to use it or lose it. The money is yours and will stay in the account (unless you take it out!).
9. Have an Emergency Fund
If your plan doesn’t offer an HSA, consider creating your own emergency fund as a safeguard in case something were to happen. A wise amount to set as a goal for you account would be your deductible; or even better, your out-of-pocket maximum. This way, you could easily pay off a medical bill.
10. Keep Records
Be sure to keep copies of all medical receipts. Whether you file them in a manila folder or store them on your computer, it will be helpful to have them on hand in case the insurance company were to make an error.
11. Double Check Every Bill that Comes in the Mail
This is a biggie. There have been several times recently that I’ve received a bill that was wrong. In one instance, we had just changed insurances to a better policy, but our bill was based upon the previous policy rates. This was an easy change. Another time, we told our doctor to send blood test results to a provider that was $20 cheaper than the place where they usually send them. The doctor’s office forget to do this, and sent us a bill for the more expensive provider. After pointing out their error, they agreed to pay the difference.
12. Be Clever with Timing
Your annual deductible resets every year. If you need an expensive procedure, try to schedule it early in the year. This could help you in case something comes up later in the year. For example:
Joe’s $7,000 deductible resets on January 1st. It is currently November and he hasn’t had any prior major medical expenses, so he hasn’t paid anything towards the deductible. Joe is going to need surgery on his knee that will cost $7,000. He can still move around, but the surgery will help with the pain he experiences when running or walking for extended periods. Instead of scheduling surgery immediately, Joe delays the surgery until after January 1st. On January 15th, Joe gets his surgery and pays his deductible in full. Now, for the rest of the year, insurance will cover his expenses (minus the co-insurance until he reaches the out-of-pocket maximum). So if something else major happens to Joe within that year, it will almost entirely be covered. Joe was wise.
Now you can be wise, too!
Share With Others
Don’t let family and friends miss out on saving money! Remember, 90% of people don’t know that insurance plans offer free services. Now that you know these great tips, share them!