Ways To Get More Affordable Health Care
Researching and finding quality health care seems to be a hell from which none of us are exempt. It’s always a dizzying and overwhelming process. There is so much jargon that we’re supposed to understand, but don’t. And the insurance broker speaks so fast and with a tone indicating we should understand, that we’re too shy to stop him and say, “What does that mean?” Making one small decision that seems inconsequential today could lead to major consequences later, like a massive out-of-pocket bill that could have been covered if we’d just made the right selections earlier. Ugh. The whole thing can make you want to just skip health insurance and stick to just praying nothing happens. But don’t do that. If you’re truly in a situation where paying for an individual plan is not an option, or barely an option, you have other choices. Here is how to find affordable health care.
Play the premium/deductible game
It’s important to understand that a premium is something you will definitely pay and a deductible is something you will only pay if something goes wrong. You never want your deductible to be so high that you couldn’t possibly pay it, should something happen, but consider pushing the deductible to the limit. Look at it this way. Let’s say you can either have a monthly premium of $200, with a $3,000 deductible for the year or you can have a monthly premium of just $150, with a $3,600 deductible for the year. If you choose the higher premium, you are definitely kissing that extra $50 a month—$600 a year—goodbye. If you go with the lower premium, you get to hold onto that extra money if nothing happens.
Think critically about making claims
When you have to make a claim, you just have to make it. But know that each time you do, you risk seeing that premium go up. So, ask yourself if you really want to make a claim for that $300 bill. If you can pay out of pocket, it could be better to leave your insurance company out of it. Ask your parents for money, or get on a payment plan with the doctor. Your health insurance doesn’t have to know about every small bill.
Look into Care Credit
Care Credit is a wonderful resource that lets you pay off your medical bills, without involving insurance, and without breaking the bank. Care Credit is a no-interest credit card for health bills. No hidden fees. No catch. They simply base your payment plan on your income. Care Credit pays the doctor the full fee, upfront, and you pay Care Credit back in manageable monthly installments. Most medical professionals accept Care Credit.
Go to dentist schools
For maintenance visits such as teeth cleanings, go to your local dentist school. They hold clinics where dental students perform cleanings, under the supervision of licensed dentists. Cleanings are pretty simple and straightforward. So why pay $150 for them each time?
Area code matters
While the nearest doctor may be the most convenient, he may not be the most affordable. The nicer the area, the higher the doctor’s fees, meaning the more money your insurance company pays them, and the higher chance your premium goes up. If you’re willing to travel ten or 15 miles, you could find an equally qualified doctor with lower fees.
Visit clinics for routine procedures
Look up clinics in your city. Non-profits may put up health care clinics in your town, offering no or low-cost things like vaccines, generic prescriptions, blood work, and even full check-ups. Just be prepared to wait an hour or two, and don’t expect a fancy reception area.
Make sure your reported income is accurate
Remember that your reported income can affect the cost of your health care. If you’re struggling to afford health care because you recently lost a job or suffered a pay cut, and you’re on a subsidized plan, report that income change to your insurance.
Check Groupon for special services
You obviously won’t get a colonoscopy through Groupon, but you may find chiropractic services, orthodontic services like Invisalign, and even physical therapists. Medical professionals seeking new patients often offer deals on platforms like Groupon.
Consider short-term plans
Short-term plans are often less expensive, per-month, than comprehensive plans. Some companies offer plans for just a few months, six months, or one year. If you cannot financially afford a comprehensive plan now, but want to bridge the gap until you can, these are a great option.
Go to therapists-in-training
If it’s your mental or emotional health that needs professional help, there are plenty of ways to find low or no-cost therapy. A great way is to go to your local university, offering a therapy program. The therapists-in-training need to complete volunteer hours to get their degree, and they need patients to do so.
Always go generic on prescriptions
Don’t be elitist about those prescriptions. The generic are identical to the name brand, and can save you a tremendous amount of money.
Find new practices
Look up new practices that recently opened in your city. Brand new doctors struggle to build their initial patient base, and often offer great discounts when they’ve just opened, to attract people.
Get on your partner’s plan
If your partner has been hired at a new job that offers health benefits, it’s possible that you can get on his plan. Just make sure to apply during the initial enrollment period.
Get on your parent’s plan
If you are under 26 years old, you can likely be grandfathered into your parent’s health insurance plan. They may have great rates, since they’ve been loyal to the plan for years.
Be loyal to the plan you find
Speaking of loyalty, when you find a plan you like, stick with it. Most insurance companies eventually give loyalty discounts to customers who have stayed with them for a long time.