3 easy steps to finding more affordable health insurance options

58053886 - mature woman with plastered leg talking on mobile phone at homeFinding affordable health insurance plans doesn’t have to be difficult. However, with the average cost of individual health insurance plans skyrocketing each year (rising past $321/month in 2017), more and more people are frustrated by what feels like a tough decision between budget-conscious monthly premiums and enough coverage to provide peace-of-mind in case of serious medical emergencies.

If you want to control your health care costs without sacrificing the quality of your health insurance coverage, here are some useful strategies for making health insurance more wallet-friendly:

Talk to a Health Insurance Expert

First things first: call a trustworthy health insurance broker before making any decisions. These folks are trained to be the best at researching different insurance options and finding a policy that works for your budget and lifestyle/health needs. You may not realize all of the many factors that go into choosing a health care plan, and going alone leaves you vulnerable to making costly mistakes that an insurance expert would have easily avoided if they were able to guide you in the right direction.

Compare Different Plans

A common mistake individuals make while shopping for health insurance is not comparing their options! Instead, they focus on just one or two aspects, such as monthly cost, one area of coverage, availability of in-network doctors nearby, or other customers’ ratings. Rather than making a decision based on a limited set of criteria, you should take everything into consideration and narrow your choices down to the two best options after some light research (your insurance broker can certainly help you with this).

The most affordable plan might not have many in-network providers in your area (forcing you to spend more money on transportation expenses or expensive out-of-network care), while a pricier plan may have doctors nearby and lower copayment costs for services and prescriptions you routinely use.

Beware ‘Bare Bones’ Insurance

When it comes to affordable health insurance, the plan with the lowest monthly payment on paper might not always be the cheapest option in reality. After all, there’s an inverse relationship between monthly premiums and deductibles: the higher your premium is, the lower your deductible will be (and vice versa).

If you are young and healthy, then perhaps a high deductible plan might work for you because you don’t anticipate using it a lot – if ever – throughout the year. But the dark side of ‘bare bones’ insurance plans – which offer minimal benefits and $5,000+ deductibles before coverage really kicks in – is that you could be in serious financial trouble if a costly medical emergency occurs. With this in mind, it’s generally best to strike a balance between monthly premiums and annual deductibles, rather than choosing the high-deductible plan with low monthly premiums simply because it’s more affordable in the short-run.

How you can make your office a healthier place

38262881_MSmall businesses often don’t have a lot of money to spend on employee benefits, let alone to start and run a wellness program. But there are some simple steps you can take to make your office a healthier place for all of your employees:

Stop offering candy and doughnuts. Studies show that office workers gain weight over time when there’s a candy bowl in close proximity. Or when there are free doughnuts each Friday. According to Cornell University, the average American worker is putting on five to seven pounds a year eating candy and other high-calorie treats at work. Consider replacing your candy bowl with a basket of fresh fruit or packaged healthy snacks.

Make meetings healthier. Consider offering bottled water instead of soda and ditching the doughnuts during meetings in favor of a healthier snack or lunch.

Don’t skimp on cleaning. Did you know that your office kitchen and break room can be as germy as the bathroom? Anywhere employees are preparing food or eating should be cleaned regularly. Clean the office coffee pot(s) each week with vinegar. Wipe down coffee pot handles, water machine buttons and door knobs that are used many times each day by different people. Make sure restrooms are cleaned each week.

Encourage employees to stay home when they are sick. Research shows that many employees worry about taking sick time when they are sick. Only about 16 percent of U.S. employees use all of their paid sick leave each year. About 45 percent of employees use only some of their sick leave and 32 percent don’t take any sick leave at all. Make sure your employees know they can and should stay home if they are ill.

Ask employees what they want. Most people these days are trying to be healthier. If you’re a business owner, why not ask employees what they think the company should offer? Discounted gym memberships? Walking sessions? Help from a healthy eating expert? What your employees consider important in terms of wellness may surprise you.