Rising healthcare costs have not made it easy to attain adequate coverage. Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to $12,680 annually for family coverage this year, with employees on average paying $3,354 out of their paychecks to cover their share of the cost, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Premiums rose a modest 5% this year, but they have more than doubled since 1999 when total family premiums stood at $5,791 (of which workers paid $1,543).
During the same nine-year period, workers’ wages increased 34% and general inflation rose 29%, meaning less service for your dollar. This year, many workers are also facing higher deductibles in their plans, including a growing number with general plan deductibles of at least $1,000, up from 12% last year.
“With rising deductibles, more and more people face a substantial out-of-pocket amount for their healthcare before their insurance fully kicks in,” says Drew Altman, Kaiser president and CEO. “Health insurance is steadily becoming less comprehensive, and it’s no wonder that in today’s tough economic climate many families count healthcare costs as one of their top pocketbook issues,” he adds.
Whether you’re searching for coverage or have a plan, here are a few tips to make sure you get the most care for your buck:
Shop around. With a number of comparison-price shopping Websites, looking for proper coverage can be as easy as finding the best mp3 player. “There are several Websites one can go to compare plans,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director at the American Public Health Association. He recommends visiting ehealthinsurance.com for quotes. The site compiles plans based on the information you provide. Coveragepoint.com offers users a broker to help choose the best plan.
Go cheaper or generic. If you find yourself forking out loads of cash for prescriptions, ask your doctor for a cheaper drug, especially if you’re given a free sample. “If the doctor gives you a free sample, it typically is the most expensive drug to treat that ailment,” says Devon Herrick, a health economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis. That drug can end up costing $100 a month. Herrick also recommends using Destinationrx.com’s drug comparison tool which helps users find cheaper alternatives.
Try a clinic. If you are looking for a flu shot or a minor service, skip your general care physician for a retail-based clinic at a local Walmart or CVS. These clinics are usually staffed by nurse practitioners. “It’s half the price if you’re paying the bill yourself,” Herrick says.
Compare clinic and lab prices. When it comes to going to a clinic or getting lab work done, Herrick says it may be cheaper to forgo the insurance. If your doctor asks that you get lab work done and recommends a few centers, ask for an additional three centers so you can shop around. “Tell them the insurance you have and ask what the insurance price is and the cash price,” Herrick says. “In some cases, the