If you don’t know a deductible from a co-pay, or an HMO from HBO – you are not alone. But if you are among the growing number of Americans who are now using this marvelous tool known as the Internet to shop on their own for affordable medical coverage, these are terms you’ll need to get comfortable with, or it can cost you.
Lesson one – The Higher the Deductible The Lower the Premium
The deductible is the amount that you have to pay out of pocket for covered medical expenses before the health insurance benefit kicks in. Deductible amounts are usually based on a calendar year. The surest and easiest path towards a lower cost heath insurance premium is still to select a plan with the highest deductible. Once you do that it is also a good idea to open up a specific account such as a Medical Savings Account to pay for medical expenses until the deductible is reached.
Lesson Two – The Co-Payment
The Co-Payment or “co-pay” is a specific dollar amount paid by the policy holder at the time of service of each healthcare visit. It is a fixed amount and does not build to a maximum amount like a deductible. Co-pays are another aspect of lowering health insurance costs that are in your control. You may be able to lower your premium rates by requesting higher co-pay amounts. If you are generally healthy and do not make many trips to the doctor electing a higher co-pay is a great way to ensure more affordable health insurance payments.
Lesson Three – What Else you can do
While many of the costs that are involved in creating a health insurance premium are fixed and non-negotiable there are other areas that we have seen like choosing a higher deductible or co-pay amount that can help reduce your health insurance rates. There are other things in your control as well.
• Generic Drugs – if you do not have prescription drug coverage, always ask if there is a generic available for a given prescription medication. Several large pharmaceutical retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart have programs where many of the most popular generic drugs can be purchased for as little as $ 4.00.
• Lifestyle Changes and Wellness Programs – another way to reduce your health insurance costs is to get in better shape. Quitting smoking and losing weight, after choosing the highest deductible and co-pay amounts, is probably the surest way to reduce a heath insurance bill. Many HMO’s since it is in their best interest to have you remain healthy, will offer wellness programs, and preventive medicine screenings. Take advantage of these. Believe it or not some employer sponsored health insurance plans will even pay for all or part of a gym membership. It’s all part of the concept of paying a little now to keep you healthy, rather than paying more later on.
• Shop Around – get multiple quotes from multiple sources. Today it is very easy to get a free quote online