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The Best Ways To Save On (And For!) Healthcare Expenses

Finances FYI Presented by JPMorgan Chase

Health care expenses can be a significant financial burden, and unexpected medical bills can catch even the most prepared individuals off guard. Learn how to save for health care-related costs, avoid surprise bills, and take appropriate steps if you face a disputed medical bill. You can better navigate the complex world of health care finance and safeguard your financial well-being by implementing these strategies

Budget for Expected and Unexpected Health Care Expenses

Incorporate health care costs such as insurance premiums, copayments, and medication into your monthly budget. Then, establish an emergency fund that you contribute to monthly to provide a safety net for unexpected medical expenses. This earmarked fund for health-related costs can serve as a crucial financial buffer to cover unforeseen medical emergencies without compromising your overall financial stability. 

Build a Robust Health Savings Account (HSA) 

One of the most effective ways to proactively save for health care expenses is utilizing a Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA is a tax-advantaged financial tool that helps individuals save for qualified medical expenses. Typically paired with a high-deductible health insurance plan, account holders contribute pre-tax dollars into the account, reducing their taxable income. The funds within the HSA can be invested and grow tax-free over time, and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are also tax-free. Maximize your annual HSA contributions, taking advantage of the tax-free growth and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses. 

Understand and Compare Healthcare Plans

Choosing the right health care plan is crucial to managing costs effectively. Understand the specifics of your insurance coverage, including deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket maximums. Compare different plans to find one that aligns with your health care needs and financial situation. Often, high-deductible plans come with lower premiums but may require higher out-of-pocket expenses. Consider utilizing an insurance broker or agent to assist with research. 

Stay In-network to Avoid Surprise Bills

One common pitfall that leads to unexpected expenses is receiving care from out-of-network providers. Before seeking medical services, verify that your health care providers are in-network, as these providers have negotiated rates with your insurance company. If emergencies necessitate out-of-network care, familiarize yourself with your insurance policy’s provisions and proactively contact your provider to discuss potential billing issues.

Be Proactive in Preventive Care

Preventive care is vital for maintaining your health and can be a cost-saving measure. Regular check-ups, screenings, and a healthful lifestyle can help identify and address possible health issues before they become more severe and costly to treat. Taking a proactive approach to health can contribute to long-term savings by preventing the need for extensive medical interventions.

Avoid Unnecessary High-cost Care

To mitigate financial burdens, be aware of the potential costs associated with high-cost services, such as emergency room visits or expensive diagnostic testing. Alternative health care options, like urgent care centers or telemedicine services, for situations that are not life-threatening can provide cost-effective alternatives to pricey emergency room visits. 

Before undergoing any procedure, inquire about the estimated costs to ensure transparency and prevent unwelcome surprises. If the recommendation is for a high-cost service:

  • Engage in open communication with health care providers about the necessity of specific tests or procedures.
  • Seek second opinions.
  • Explore alternative, cost-efficient options when appropriate. 

Explore Options for Discounts or Payment Plans

Explore discount options, such as paying in cash to mitigate health care expenses. Many health care providers offer cash payment discounts as an incentive for patients who settle their bills upfront and without the involvement of insurance. Some medical facilities may offer prompt payment discounts or flexible payment plans. 

Photo: serezniy via 123RF

Negotiate High Medical Bills 

If you face a substantial medical bill, don’t hesitate to negotiate with health care providers. Many hospitals and clinics are willing to work with patients to establish manageable payment plans or reduce fees based on financial need. Before agreeing to any payment arrangement, thoroughly review the bill to ensure accuracy. Consider utilizing a bill negotiation service to find opportunities to negotiate lower costs.

Dispute Your Bill

If you identify discrepancies or errors, document them in detail and gather supporting documents, such as receipts, itemized statements, or communication records with health care providers. Contact the billing department promptly, explaining the specific issues you’ve identified and providing the supporting documentation. If you don’t achieve a resolution, consider escalating the dispute through formal channels, such as filing an internal complaint or an external review with your state’s insurance department.

Look Into Community Support

Numerous grants and nonprofit organizations specialize in assisting individuals grappling with the financial strain of chronic illnesses or high medical bills. These organizations offer general financial aid or support for specific chronic illnesses. Support networks, including churches, charities, and local community organizations, also help with various costs, such as transportation or day-to-day expenses.

Being informed and proactive can make all the difference in ensuring that your health care expenses are manageable and don’t jeopardize your overall financial well-being.

Finances FYI is presented by JPMorgan Chase. JPMorgan Chase is making a $30 billion commitment over the next five years to address some of the largest drivers of the racial wealth divide.