Finding 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.