5 steps to maximize the value of your health care coverage

5 steps to maximize the value of your health care coverage
March 04 18:05 2018

The rising costs of having health care coverage for you and your family are all too real.

According to eHealthInsurance.com, an online insurance resource center, an unsubsidized customer — meaning someone who does not get preferred rates through an employer or other subsidies from the government — paid an average premium of $3,852 per year for individual coverage, and nearly $10,000 per year for family coverage in 2016.

Add to that an average annual deductible of $4,385 for individuals and $7,983 for a family plan, the average family paid almost $18,000 for their health coverage in 2016. With costs already high and increasing every year, it’s wise to consider how to get your money’s worth. Because a new year of coverage is beginning, now is a great time to consider some of these quick and easy action steps.

1. Have non-emergency procedures early in the calendar year

If you have one of the popular plans that qualify for health savings accounts (HSAs), your annual deductible will be a minimum of $2,700 for family coverage. While healthy families might not approach that spending level, non-emergency procedures can push your costs over the annual deductible.

If that’s the case, and assuming you have some control over the timing, consider scheduling these elective procedures early in the calendar year. Doing so increases the chance that you’ll exceed your deductible, so expenses later in the year will be shared or covered by the insurance company. If you require expensive procedures, scheduling in the early months also might increase the chance of meeting the federal threshold for writing off your medical expenses. Based on recent tax reform, the threshold for writing off medical expenses remains at 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income in 2018, but increases to 10 percent of AGI in 2019.

2. Audit all your bills

Statistics show that medical bills often include errors and that they contribute to a significant number of bankruptcies every year. For these reasons, it’s important to audit your medical charges. Fortunately, if you don’t have the time to wade through bills (i.e., you’re recovering from major illness or surgery), there are bill-paying companies who can assist you in confirming that all the charges are warranted.

3. Maximize available tax savings

HSAs can be powerful for building funds to use on medically related expenses, either in retirement or in years when cash flow is tight. (Read: 7 Things You Need to Know About Health Savings Accounts.)

Less flexible, but also helpful in reducing total costs, are flexible spending accounts offered by employers. Determining the availability and the best way to participate in these accounts can be as easy as contacting your employer’s human resources professional. Oftentimes you can set up payroll deduction for your contributions, which is a convenient way to save money by paying for health care with pretax dollars.

4. Anticipate midyear events that may impact your coverage

All of these ideas are great ways to increase the value of the dollars you spend on health insurance. However, you may be prevented from taking full advantage of them if your coverage changes during the year. When that occurs, deductibles are set back to zero, premiums change, and the costs of seeing your regular doctor may change, too.

5. Consider special circumstances

Of course, many life events cannot be predicted, but if you find yourself in any of these circumstances, you’ll want to educate yourself on special considerations when selecting a new health plan…

Read full story at WTOP
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