Perhaps you work for a small business that doesn’t offer traditional benefits such as health insurance. Perhaps you’re an independent contractor or entrepreneur and are concerned about how to manage healthcare costs for you and your family. Or perhaps the health insurance your job provides doesn’t fit with your values or needs.
There are many things you can do to proactively take charge of your healthcare just as you should your work-life, health, and
other aspects of your life. So much of what Dan writes and talks about here on 48 Days is focused on helping you find or create the work you love rather than letting outside circumstances dictate how you will be spending your days. You can do the same with your healthcare. You don’t have to let government regulations, health insurance companies, or your boss (if you have one) determine how you and your family will get health care when you need it.
Of course looking at your options before you are in a health crisis provides the best possibilities. Here are some things to consider.
- Take care of your health. You know that eating less processed foods, getting adequate exercise and rest, and nurturing the mental and spiritual parts of you will result in better health. But it may be less obvious how much money you can save. Losing 10% of your excess weight or quitting smoking will save you thousands of dollars each year in direct costs, and decrease your healthcare costs by thousands more in the years to come. If money motivates you, use that as an incentive to make positive changes in your lifestyle today.
- Consider high-deductible health insurance. These plans are increasingly popular because the monthly premiums are much less than “traditional” insurance. Even many employer-provided health insurance plans are now high-deductible. Having to pay a significant portion of your medical costs yourself before insurance kicks in can actually save you money. You’ll be more likely to consider what care you really need, and make more cost-conscious decisions as a result.
- Open a Health Savings Account. To meet requirements under the Affordable Care Act, you need one of these plans anyway if you have high-deductible health insurance. These plans allow you to save money either pre-tax or tax-deferred that can be used to pay your health insurance deductible, and also copays or other costs not covered by insurance. The savings partially depend on your tax-bracket, but this is a no-brainer money-saver whether or not you have health insurance.
- Ask questions! Your doctor might not personally know the exact cost of the medication, test, or treatment they recommend, but they will have a general idea. And they should be able to refer you to someone who can help you find out cost information. How important is that test? Can this procedure be done in an outpatient facility rather than in a hospital? If your doctor won’t discuss these types of questions, it might even be time to fire them!
- Shop around! You might be surprised at how much you can save by getting your laboratory tests, X-rays, medications, or other services at a different facility perhaps just blocks down the street. Unless it’s an emergency, do your homework in advance. FairHealth Consumer is a free online services that will help you determine the reasonable costs for a wide variety of medical services.
- Pause before purchasing medications. Talk with your doctor about how important a given medication is for your health, and whether it is the lowest cost medication available that will do the job. Ask for and use a generic medication if it’s available. If you need a brand-name medication, check NeedyMeds for discounts, coupons, and other cost-saving options.
- Consider Christian health sharing ministries. For members of Christian faith communities, these health sharing ministries may be the best-kept secret as a way to both meet your healthcare costs and save money at the same time. These programs offer a comprehensive faith-based alternative to traditional health insurance, and are clearly meeting a great need. There are three: Christian Healthcare Ministries, Samaritan Ministries, and MediShare. (I’m a happy member of CHM, and you can find out why here.)
Take charge of your healthcare just as you do every other part of your life. You’ll feel better, and save money in the process.