Health Care Costs in the US Are Skyrocketing—Here's How You Can Save Money
By 2023, the average American is expected to spend $15,000 per year on their own health care. Here are seven are ways to cut your costs.
From copays and doctor's visits to the cost of prescription medications, health care in America is expensive. The average American spends more than $10,000 a year on health insurance and medical-related expenses—and that number is expected to increase exponentially over the next two years. By 2023, health care spending per person is expected to surpass $14,944 annually in the US, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This means a family of four will shell out nearly $60,000 to cover their most basic health care needs.
Save Money on Medications
When it comes to medication, there are a few ways to save money and cut costs. Generic prescriptions, for example, are generally cheaper than their brand-name counterparts, even though they use the same active ingredient(s). Over-the-counter alternatives may also exist. You can take four store-brand ibuprofen for the same dosage and much less money than the prescription kind. Ordering your medication through a mail-order service can also help you save money; they generally provide you with a 90-day supply.
Use Your Benefits Frequently (and Whenever Possible)
This may seem like a given, but you can and should use your health care benefits whenever possible. Get routine check-ups and health screenings, as these appointments can catch health problems early, when they may be more easily treated. This includes seeking prenatal care if you are pregnant. Stay in-network if you can, and use supplemental services; many health plans offer discounts on things like gym memberships, nutrition programs, dental care, and eyewear.
Take Preventive Measures to Manage Your Health & Care
The value of preventive care cannot be overstated. Not only does it help your health (and even increase your lifespan!); it saves you money, too. The sooner you get in front of a doctor so that a problem or condition can be identified and diagnosed, the better (and cheaper) the treatment options may be. But preventative care isn't just routine check-ups and health screenings; it also involves things you can do for yourself to cut care costs in the long run, such as eating healthy, exercising, quitting smoking, and dialing down the harmful substances such as alcohol. Preventive healthcare plays an important part in staying well—mind, body, and wallet.
Consider a High-Deductible Plan
High-deductible health care plans aren't for everyone. After all, they require you to pay a large sum of out-of-pocket money before insurance coverage kicks in. This means these plans aren't the best for those with chronic and/or pre-existing conditions; if that's you, they could be detrimental to your finances and set you back. However, if you are young and relatively healthy and only see your doctor once or twice a year, you can save major money with this option. Just make sure you have the cash on hand to cover the deductible if you do end up needing significant care.
Use a Health Spending Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
Many employers offer HSAs and FSAs. These "savings" accounts allow you to set aside pre-tax money for health care expenses, helping you save several hundreds of dollars per year. However, HSAs and FSAs are two very different programs, and while the latter is beneficial to those with ongoing health care expenses (copays, prescriptions, etc.) not everyone can or should have a health spending account. HSAs are designed for those with high-deductible health insurance plans only.
To learn more about HSAs and FSAs, speak with your employer and/or your insurance provider. You can also open an HSA on your own, though FSAs are only available to employees via their workplace.
Consider Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements (ICHRAs)
A (relatively) new type of health coverage is the ICHRA, or individual coverage health reimbursement arrangement. But what is an ICHRA? Well, in short, individual coverage reimbursement arrangements are unique health insurance policies, ones that help you cover the cost of medical-related expenses and care in a personalized way. ICHRAs are not group plans. Rather, ICHRAs give employees power over their health care, allowing them to select a package that meets their specific needs. And while these plans are payroll- and income-tax-free deductions, the viability of this option will depend on your wants and needs. Generally speaking, though, ICHRAs could save employees money in a number of ways. For more information about ICHRAs, speak with your human resource director and/or visit HealthCare.gov.
Ask for Discounts and/or Need-Based Assistance
And finally, while the notion of asking for a discount may sound strange, especially in regards to health insurance and/or health care, exceptions and exemptions are made. Therapists, for example, often work on a sliding scale. This means the amount of money you pay per session is based on your financial ability and/or needs. Some pharmacies offer prescriptions at a lower cost when needed, and dental discount plans are also available.
Plus, unforeseen medical expenses can be disputed. When my father died in 1996, nine days before his insurance kicked in, the hospital waived most of the fees associated with his care. Tens of thousands of dollars of debt were essentially forgiven and wiped out. The point is: When all else fails, don't be afraid to ask for help. You've got nothing to lose, and you just might win.