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How to Cut Your Health Insurance Costs Now

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People who are sorting through new health insurance options aren’t the only ones looking for ways to cut their medical costs. Employees who will continue to be covered by traditional employer-based health insurance plans also are in need of money-saving moves—as always, they are facing higher costs for premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, including co-payments and co-insurance.

The year-end insurance open-enrollment period is the time to make those moves, and the shrewdest ones require some analysis. Three things employees should focus on…

Carefully compare plans offered by one spouse’s employer with plans offered by the other spouse’s employer. Changes in plan costs and benefits can affect decisions about which employer has the most attractive plan and whether both spouses should opt for the same employer’s plan. Also, consider which doctors and hospitals are in each network and the reputation of each employer’s insurer. (Consult your doctors’ offices.) Some companies no longer even provide coverage for an employee’s spouse if he/she can obtain coverage from his own employer.

What to do: If you and your spouse both have employers that offer health insurance, compare the cost of obtaining coverage separately versus covering both of you at one employer. Also compare the costs of coverage for dependent children if you have any.

Caution: Don’t automatically sign up either spouse for coverage through both employers. Some couples believe that double coverage means a larger share of health costs will be covered. But often, any added coverage may not be worth the additional premiums.

Analyze wellness program requirements. Many companies now offer employees discounts on health insurance premiums if they sign up for wellness programs, such as smoking cessation or weight control. Starting in 2014, employers are allowed to set those discounts as high as 30%, up from 20% in 2013.

Be aware that wellness programs often require employees to submit to frequent weigh-ins, blood tests and/or other physical evaluations that some consider overly invasive.

Consider dropping dental insurance. Consumers with routine dental needs sometimes spend more when they have dental insurance than when they don’t. That’s because dental insurance is not as heavily subsidized by employers as in the past, if at all. Your annual premium could amount to $300 or more…there might be a substantial deductible…the insurance might cover just 50% of the cost of major procedures…and total coverage often is capped at just $1,000 to $2,000.

What to do: If you and your dependents don’t have significant dental problems, call your dentist and ask how much your regular dental appointments would cost without insurance. Compare this with the amount you pay each year for dental insurance, plus any out-of-pocket dental costs you incur despite having coverage. Of course, keep in mind that unexpected dental costs could mean that you would be better off having the dental insurance.

Note: If you choose not to have dental insurance, enroll in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or other tax-advantaged plan to cover the costs.

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Source: Susan Loeb, JD, founder of Your Benefits Advocate, a Chicago-based health insurance and Medicare claims advocate. She is a licensed attorney and former benefits manager at University of Chicago. YourBenefitsAdvocate.com Date: November 15, 2013 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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