FSA Friday with Sean - 3/23/18: How to pay less for healthcare needs
For most Americans, healthcare comes through their employer, and prices for expenses -- like copays and doctor visits -- are largely determined by the available plans, before you even sign up.
But with the rising cost of healthcare in the U.S., skipping treatments or postponing doctors' appointments has become an unfortunate -- and unnecessary -- reality for some Americans.
Don't let these price increases affect your health when there are many ways to cut the costs of medical care! For this week's FSA Friday, we're going to explore some easy, money-saving tips to boost your finances.
1. Check prescription drug prices
We covered this in last week's column, but you may be spending more than you should for prescription drugs by not paying with cash. Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) may sometimes negotiate higher prices for co-pays than the actual cost of the drug, so you should always ask your pharmacist first if there's a difference between cash and insurance-covered prices.
2. Use free preventive care options
The Affordable Care Act mandated that insurance plans must offer a minimum standard of preventative services that are free of charge to the participant, as long as they stay within their insurance networks. Healthcare.gov has a full listing of these services, which includes vital screenings like colonoscopies, vaccinations, blood pressure testing, and more.
3. Enroll in an FSA/HSA
Maybe we're partial, but if you're offered an FSA or HSA option through your employer, this is one of the easiest ways to cut costs by reducing your taxable income. The money contributed to your account is exempt, so every purchase you make, whether it's sunscreen, co-pays or OTC medicines, is covered by tax-free money. That's way better than paying out of pocket!
4. Consider generic drug options
When you purchase name-brand medications, you're usually paying a premium for the name on the bottle. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications like pain relievers and antihistamines have identical generic versions that can offer real cost savings.
Another note -- be wary of pricey combo drugs. Instead of buying a less-effective combination cold and allergy medicine, check ingredient lists. It's often far cheaper (and effective) to buy a standard decongestant and a separate allergy medication. Of course, check with your doctor if you're unsure of how much you need of each active ingredient.
5. Track your health spending
This sounds like a no-brainer, but tracking spending is a major consideration if you have a deductible.
Let's say you anticipate having a medical procedure sometime over the next year. You can use this opportunity to make a huge dent in your deductible so that insurance can cover unexpected expenses later in the year.
Another option is to hold off on the procedure until later in the year, after you've met your deductible, when your insurance might possibly cover the whole cost. Both options make sense, as long as you track your costs so you can time your healthcare costs to match your insurance coverage.