Smart tips to manage high-deductible health plan costs

(BPT) - It's the same issue every year: Jan. 1 arrives and you need to meet an annual deductible again before your health care coverage takes full effect. For people with high-deductible plans, this can be a big expense at the start of the year.

High-deductible plans are increasing in popularity as a way to curb rising health care premiums. Typically, people are offered a plan at a lower monthly cost in exchange for a higher deductible. The IRS defines a high-deductible health plan as any plan with a deductible of at least $1,400 for an individual or $2,800 for a family. For many people, their deductibles are even higher.

Whether you have a traditional plan or a high-deductible plan, out-of-pocket costs often hit people the hardest at the start of the year when coverage is minimal due to reset deductibles. Unmet deductibles typically mean you pay for the full cost of prescriptions, clinic visits, treatments and more.

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to manage the influx of health care costs at the start of the year so you can save money and stay healthy:

Budget

Health care deductibles reset annually, so plan ahead and budget for expected costs. If you or your family members see a health care provider regularly, you can anticipate these expenses and create a budget.

If you have access to pretax savings plans through an employer, such as a health care savings account, opt in to save by paying with untaxed dollars. Additionally, consider setting some money aside for a rainy-day medical fund. There are always unexpected expenses and having this cushion can help curb costs.

Inside Rx

If you need a prescription but currently have to pay out-of-pocket costs until meeting your deductible, consider using a free Inside Rx card to access medication savings. Inside Rx helps people who need to pay out of pocket for their medication by offering discounts that average 70% on brand and generic medications.

Download the free Inside Rx card at insiderx.com. Remember, not all pharmacies charge the same price for medications. While on the website, use the cost-comparison tool to learn which local pharmacy offers the best price for your prescription so you can save the most.

Use in-network providers

Every plan is unique in which providers it considers in network and out of network. In-network providers are typically covered at a higher amount by the health care plan, which means you will be charged less for services.

Before visiting a doctor or clinic, call your insurance provider and verify that it's in network so you aren't surprised by a bill that's higher than expected. If your provider isn't in network, you can ask about comparable providers who are, so you can access savings.

Payment plans

If you do end up with medical expenses and can't pay the balance all at once, call the clinic's billing office to work out a payment plan. Many health care organizations want to be proactive about finding a reasonable way for you to pay, even if that means specified monthly payments until you're caught up.

Health care costs at the start of the year can be financially crippling, but with a few smart steps, you can manage these expenses with ease while keeping yourself and your family healthy.

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