Keeping Health Insurance in Tough Times - Three Things You Can Do To Lower Your Costs

Concerned that some self-employed, small business owners and even employees may be scrimping on essential healthcare benefits during the current economic turmoil? Maybe it’s your own business and you do not offer insurance but you are concerned for your own family. With family budgets strained by higher fuel and food costs, people are filling fewer prescriptions and visiting the doctor less often. The cost of medications and physician doctor visits are on a rise when families are putting together all they have to eat and keep a roof over their heads. When people are worried about the costs of living and about whether they will have a job tomorrow, they are reducing their prescription drug intake, particularly those drugs that do not have a symptom-relieving effect.

If your income decreases because of a lack of business profit, layoff, disability, illness, etc., your family may find it extremely difficult to pay insurance premiums. If your monthly budget is tight or you are not able to make a payment, you need to determine your minimum needs for insurance. It is very important to review your insurance coverage. At times, families have been on a policy for a certain length of time and they do not realize that even reapplying for the same coverage can lower their premiums to more affordable levels. However, the coverage they have had may be inadequate for today’s unforeseen events. This is a reason to work with a true health insurance expert to bring you all the options that are available to you, in order to lower your premium without jeopardizing coverage. Someone who does not review these items on a daily basis may either get themselves into something they wish they had not; or they may have missed another opportunity for better coverage by not realizing there were other options available to them.

Although you cannot eliminate risk from your life, you can postpone, minimize or control some losses. By looking at the numbers closely you may end up coming out ahead just by making minor adjustments on your coverage. Using higher deductibles (the amount of money you agree to pay per year before the insurance company pays for a claim) is a great way to lower your premiums, however, try not to get out of hand with your exposure.

A comprehensive insurance review with your agent every year to two years will help you determine whether you have adequate, or perhaps too much, insurance coverage.
Insurance is the primary way you protect yourself against financial loss caused by illness, accidents and other unknown events. Premiums are paid to an insurance company that in return pays for the losses that may occur. You have to make sure you have enough in all the right areas while keeping the monthly premiums affordable.

Some of the things to review:

• Only insure for the things you cannot afford, i.e. Emergency Room, Hospital, etc. Pay for what you can afford, i.e. doctor visits and lab work - your auto insurance does not pay for your oil changes or diagnostic testing, now does it? Does your homeowners insurance cover the cost of changing your furnace filter? Why is health insurance any different?

• Ask your doctors if they are willing to work with you and Ask for the discount. I have found people do not even know you can get additional discounting from your doctors and hospitals. Sometimes you have to play hardball to get the bills more affordable for you. Remember, they do not know what your pocket book looks like. Also, you do not know what they are willing to do unless you ask. Most places are willing to work with you.

• Talk with your doctor about alternative medications. Is there a possibility of eliminating the medication altogether or possibly switching to a generic form? Most brand companies make a generic form with the same active ingredients.

Employees have a natural tendency to transfer the burden of medical costs on to the employers. They either do not realize or do not care about the cost that is involved to have those kinds of benefits. Many also do not realize what causes their employer sponsored health insurance premiums to raise. Some employees abuse and overuse the insurance offered to them, and this is what drives the premiums up for all of the employees on the plan. There is no free lunch. If you no longer have a job or your new job does not provide benefits, what are you going to do then?

Employers have been so preoccupied about the economy in general from a business perspective that they may not realize some of the changes that have gone on in the health insurance industry. There are many ways to cut cost for employers as well as the employees. It might be a good time to have the Human Resource department take a review on the way the company does things. Just like most things we have to do today, they may have to step outside of what they are used to, in order to meet the ultimate goal.

In conclusion: It is always a good idea to review your insurance with an insurance expert. Make sure the agent is an expert in the type of insurance you are reviewing. It is very common that you will find that your local auto and home insurance agency usually do not work with health insurance on a daily basis (most of them try to avoid health insurance). Also, make sure they represent the majority of the carriers in the market place. There are agents that are independent but are fixed only to a few carriers. This greatly reduces your options. Reviewing your policy with an expert will most likely ease the financial pain of the monthly cost and possibly reduce your overall healthcare cost. There might be things in your policy that you may never be using even though you are paying for it.

-Butch Zemar, President
Elite Benefits of America

Posted in Health Insurance Tagged: Health Insurance