Coping with Insurance Costs
If you’re one of the 47 million Americans without health insurance, finding a place for insurance in your budget may seem like an insurmountable task. However, there are options out there, and the expenses involved in these options should be weighed against the cost of an unexpected medical emergency – a $50,000 emergency surgery is a lot harder to cope with than a few hundred dollars each month.
Let’s take a look at a few of the options available to you:
If you have the opportunity to purchase health insurance through your employer, talk to your employer about getting enrolled. Even if you’re required to cover a substantial portion of your premiums, your monthly costs will be much lower than they will with private health insurance. Your employer may also offer a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) option, which will help you to cover qualified medical expenses with pre-tax funds.
Government-sponsored health insurance
If you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored plan, check to see what government health-insurance options are available to you. No, this doesn’t refer to the Obama administration’s current health-care proposals – plenty of states already offer government-sponsored health insurance plans that you may qualify for.
Although many of these programs are only available to low-income parents and their children, more and more states are adding options for single adults in certain income brackets. The benefits of these plans vary from covering catastrophic injuries or illnesses only to more comprehensive options with preventative medicine benefits and prescription drug coverage. If you’re a low-income household, visit your state’s aid website or speak with a Health and Human Services representative in your area about the benefits you may qualify for.
Private health insurance options
Private health insurance is generally considered to be the least desirable medical coverage option, as the premiums for these plans are much higher than what you’ll find from an employer-sponsored plan. In addition, as a private purchaser, you lose the premium increase protection that group plan members enjoy, meaning that your premiums may increase dramatically over time or in response to a large number of claims. You may even find that you’re turned down for a plan due to a pre-existing medical condition.
But even if you do qualify for private health insurance, it’s not uncommon for monthly premiums to exceed $300 per month – even for healthy participants. One option for lowering your costs is to consider a high-deductible health plan, which will give you a smaller monthly payment in exchange for a lower level of coverage. For example, you may elect a $2,500 deductible (the amount of money you’ll pay out of pocket before your coverage kicks in) in order to get a monthly premium that you can afford. It’s not ideal – you’ll have to pay out of pocket for any doctor’s appointments or tests until you reach your deductible – but it will prevent major medical expenses from causing you to go bankrupt.