This article was last updated on June 7
The rising cost of health care coupled with many employers cutting back on benefits has led to a large number of people having to go out into the market place and find their own private health insurance plans to meet their coverage needs. In addition to being more costly than standard employer sponsored plans, the small print in these plans can often be confusing and tedious to wade through. However, in order to narrow down the best and most cost effective plan for your specific needs, it is important to compare policies – as not all health plans are created, or priced, equally.
When comparing policies there are a number of plan features and benefits that should be considered in determining which is truly the better option for you. From a cost standpoint, you should do a comparison of not just the policy premiums, but factors such as the policy’s annual deductible and the out-of-pocket maximum. The policies in question should also be weighted as far as their annual maximum benefit and the lifetime maximum benefit that is offered.
Some of the specific benefits to be compared should include coverage for emergency care – both in your local area as well as out of the area, ambulance benefits, inpatient and outpatient hospital coverage amounts, annual check-up and preventive procedures coverage, and the amount paid for prescription drugs.
Once you have done as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as possible, weigh all of the features and benefits of the policies. You may find that although one has a slightly higher premium, the benefits that will be received can outweigh the difference in cost.
More Cost Effective Measures
One way to handle your health insurance needs in a cost effective way is to consider going with a high-deductible health insurance policy coupled with a health savings account (HSA). HSAs are a type of savings account that is used in conjunction with a health insurance policy. These accounts are not meant to replace insurance coverage, but rather to add to it.
Health savings account plans are used with a health insurance policy having a high deductible. The HSA component essentially acts as a savings account that is used to set aside money for health related expenses that are not covered in your policy.
The benefits of going this route are that first, it will help you to cut down on the high cost of a health insurance policy, and second, the HSA has a tax free benefit component when you use the funds from the account for medical or health related expenses. This means that you can use this money for anything from a co-payment at a doctor’s office to purchasing cough syrup at your local pharmacy.
Health Discount Plans
Another health plan option that could be considered for cost savings is a health discount plan. These are not actual health insurance policies, but rather supplemental plans that provide you with discounts on health care services. Typically, these plans will work by charging the “member” a flat fee in return for obtaining per visit discounts when you receive medical care. Many of these plans also offer some type of discount on prescription drugs.
In addition to their cost saving features, health discount plans can be used by those who are unable to obtain health insurance due to factors such as pre-existing conditions. And, they can even be used in conjunction with a health insurance policy if you find that you are paying high deductibles or fees to see out-of-network specialists or large amounts of money for other non-covered services.
In any case, regardless of whether you choose to purchase a health insurance policy, a combination policy with an HSA, or a discount health plan, it is important to weigh all of the costs with the potential savings prior to making your final decision.