For many Americans, January 1, 2014 marked their first day with health insurance. You may be one of these people. Whether you purchased health insurance on the health insurance marketplace, stayed on your parents’ plan, or signed up for coverage through your employer, you now need to figure out how you’re going to pay for care once you need it.
What do we mean? Well, we think the most misunderstood health reform term of the year is “AFFORDABILITY.” Yes, the premiums are low enough for you to buy insurance. The problem is you may not actually be able to afford to use your insurance. Since providers understand that larger deductibles can mean more bad debt for them, many now ask for 100% of their fees or your deductible upfront. If you can’t pay, they may not treat you. Maybe that is reasonable. Maybe not.
Your family budget has to account for a lot of things already: your house payment or rent, groceries, utilities, entertainment, soccer camp, ballet lessons, and healthcare costs. In 2014, your healthcare costs are going to make up a larger portion of your budget. Why? Deductibles are increasing, and healthcare costs are rising.
High Deductibles Now the Norm
Ten years ago, high deductible plans (plans with several thousand dollar deductibles) were pretty rare. Today, you’re hard-pressed to find a company that doesn’t offer one to their employees. These plans can be good for people who are generally healthy, or for people who have a large amount of money set aside for healthcare. However, they can be difficult for people without a lot of disposable income or a healthcare budget. Sure, you pay your monthly premium, but what happens when you need an MRI and have to pay the $600 up front? What do you do then? Paying your portion of your healthcare costs is your responsibility.
Healthcare will take up a larger portion of your budget than it did last year. Use these 6 tips to start preparing now!
1. Use a Fair Priced Provider
When you choose a provider or facility, make sure you’re not overpaying. Choose a fair-priced provider. You can pay up to 500% more for a procedure depending on where you go for care. Generally, hospitals are the most expensive, so choose an outpatient center if possible. If you’re a HooPayz member, be sure to use our Find Fair Healthcare Prices tool to find fair prices right in your neighborhood.
2. Start Saving NOW
If you have a high deductible healthcare plan, YOU have to pay the whole deductible before your insurance kicks in (just like your car insurance). Do you have that amount of money available when you need care? Are there ways you could start saving money now so you’re prepared for potential care in the future?
3. Check Your Bill for Errors
Shockingly, 50-80% of medical bills have errors on them. If you’re paying out-of-pocket, that means more money directly out of your wallet. HooPayz members have access to an Audit Tool that allows them to check for the top 10 billing errors. Some common things to look for are: correct patient name and address, correct dates of service, and correct insurance plan information. You’d be surprised how often a bill goes to the wrong address or you get another John Smith’s bill. Once you’ve done that, match your EOB up to your bill and verify that the charges are the same. If not, don’t pay until you’ve contacted the provider to straighten things out.
4. Use an FSA
We’ll talk more about this in our next blog, but if your company has the option to use an FSA (flexible spending account), HRA (health reimbursement account), or HSA (health savings account), this may be a great thing to take advantage of! You can set aside money pre-tax to use toward your healthcare expenses.
5. Beware of Facility Fees
As part of the Affordable Care Act, a number of different preventive services like mammograms are now available for free to patients. Somebody is still footing part of that bill though – your employer. As healthcare costs rise, your employer is doing everything they can to maintain your benefits and keep costs as low as possible for you and them.
Help them out by choosing a provider that doesn’t slap on additional fees like a facility fee. When you make your appointment, ask if there any other charges associated with this service, for example, a facility fee? You could save your employer hundreds of dollars with this simple step.
6. Stay out of the Emergency Room
Copays for ER visits are soaring. If you need true emergency care, call 911 or go to the hospital immediately. But a sore throat and swollen glands, migraines, and other health issues can be effectively treated by your primary care doctor. You will pay less without a long wait.
We Want to Hear from You
Has your deductible gone up this year? Is your premium higher each month? What changes have you seen that are impacting your family’s budget in 2014?