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How to know if you have enough health insurance

Once you enroll in a Marketplace plan, you must pay your first premium to your health insurance company – not the Health Insurance Marketplace® – so your medical coverage can begin. If you’ve already paid your premium, you can check if your health insurance is active online or in your plan materials to make sure your health insurance has started:

How to know if you have enough health insurance

IMPORTANT Continue to pay your monthly premiums

Make sure you continue to pay your monthly premiums to your health insurance company on time. They could end your coverage if you fall behind.

Verify your enrollment online

  1. Log in to your HealthCare.gov account.
  2. Click on your name in the top right and select “My applications & coverage” from the dropdown.
  3. Select your completed application under “Your existing applications.”
  4. Here you’ll see a summary of your coverage. Your coverage start date depends on when you enrolled or changed plans.
  5. If you don’t see your summary or still aren’t sure you’ve finished enrollment, call your insurance company. They can confirm if you have enrolled and paid your first premium.

Check your health insurance enrollment materials

  • Your plan will send you a membership package with enrollment materials and a health insurance card as proof of your insurance.
  • Carefully review these, and look through your plan’s provider directory to see where you can get care.
  • You’ll use the card when you get health care services, so keep it in a safe place.
  • If you didn’t receive a card, call your insurer to see if you should have received one already and to make sure your coverage is effective. You can find your insurer’s phone number on their website.

Want to change your health insurance plan? If you’d like to change your plan, you can do so now only if you experience a qualifying life event — like losing other coverage, having a baby, or getting married — and apply with a Special Enrollment Period.

How to know if you have enough health insurance

Long-term care coverage is very expensive. But do you need it, and how much exactly will you pay? Rick Kahler, the founder of Kahler Financial Group , in Rapid City, S.D., has answers to these important questions

Do you need long-term care insurance? If so, how much do you need? These are not easy questions to answer.

Adequate insurance coverage is foundational to good financial planning. Most of us insure our car, house, personal property, health, life and income. Insurance for these risks is straightforward, standardized and easy to find.

When it comes to paying for long-term health care, though, it’s hard to know if you need insurance in the first place. If you do, it’s hard to determine whether the insurance company will still be around and the coverage relevant when the time comes that you need to use it.

The chances are 50/50 that you will need some type of long-term health care. However, the common perception that long-term care means spending years confined to an assisted living center or nursing home isn’t the whole picture.

While long-term care includes these scenarios, it also includes a variety of medical and non-medical services that help meet the needs of people who are not able to fully care for themselves for long periods. A lot of long-term care happens in a person’s home, and not all long-term care extends until the end of life.

Most long-term care needs are not as long as you might think. For example, some people actually need such care for a period to recover, and go back to leading a normal life. According to an August 2017 article by Christine Benz on Morningstar.com, “75 Must-know statistics about long-term care,” the average person who needs long-term care does so for two years or less. Only about 25% of people need long-term care for more than two years, and the probability of needing it for more than five years is only 2% for men and 7% for women.

What we can deduce from this information is that when buying long-term health care insurance, you will probably get the best buy and greatest odds of having enough coverage by sticking with a policy that pays benefits for no more than five years, preferably for two or three.

How much will you spend for long-term care? That is going to depend a lot on the type of care you need and the area of the country in which you live. According to Morningstar, the average end-of-life cost in a patient’s last five years is $217,820 without dementia and $341,651 with dementia. This would indicate that a policy with a daily benefit of $125 to $200 for five years would have a high probability of being adequate.

However, most long-term care isn’t provided by professionals or paid aides. About 83% of long-term care is provided for by friends or family, and 65% of older adults with long-term care needs rely exclusively on family or friends to provide and pay for that assistance.

The Morningstar statistics show that only 7.25 million people carry long-term care insurance, which is just 2.3% of all Americans. The majority (62.3%) of those who need long-term care are funded by the federal government’s Medicaid program. In fact, 20% of the entire Medicaid budget goes to pay long-term care costs.

If you are thinking of obtaining long-term care insurance, it’s best to apply when you are in your 50s. The denial rate is just 17% for applicants in the 50-59 age range. For those aged 70-79, it rises to 45%. The average annual premium is $2,772. And only 0.5% of all businesses offer long-term care insurance to their employees.

To make decisions about long-term care insurance, it’s important to research options for your specific needs. To make the best decisions, it’s also important to start early.

You never know when your health could set you back

That’s why health insurance is a crucial investment for everyone to make. Perhaps your employer offers a health insurance plan, or maybe you’re debating whether to self-insure yourself and your family. Either way, understanding the basics of health insurance can help you choose a plan that’s right for you and comes with good benefits.

No matter what your health is like, it would be best if you got health insurance. Anything can happen in an instant that can put you in poor health. And if you’re not covered, you will end up paying more than you bargained for.

Although health insurance is something most Americans have, many health insurance consumers have low health care literacy, and they may not fully understand health insurance. This causes frustration, and it can be a struggle to find a plan.

Fortunately, this guide will help you actually understand health insurance and understand how good your benefits are so you can be more secure in your expected or unexpected health situations.

How Health Insurance Works

How does health insurance work? If you have home or auto insurance, it works similarly. Health insurance is there to save you from financial woes if something happens with your health. Illnesses and injuries can be costly, and even regular hospital visits, surgeries, and other medical-related appointments can add up over time.

Illnesses and injuries can be costly, and even regular hospital visits, surgeries, and other medical-related appointments can add up over time.

Health coverage ensures you aren’t stuck paying for these expenses out of pocket. It helps you pay for doctor’s office visits, hospital stays, emergency medical care, preventive care, and prescription drugs. It’s a plan or policy that covers a percentage of the bills for these things.

When you get health insurance, you make a contract between yourself and your insurance company. Once you purchase a plan, you’ll become a member of that plan, which can be through Medicare, Medicaid, an employer, or an individual health care plan. There are further distinctions between self-insured and fully-insured plans. Knowing the details gives you peace of mind that you’re covered from expenses.

Every month, you’ll pay the insurer to ensure you’re covered. That payment is called a premium. If you get insurance through an employer, the employer will pay part of that premium. With that plan, when you visit a health care provider, you and the insurance company split the cost, which you can do in one of two ways:

  1. Copay, deductible, and coinsurance: Copays are a small fee you usually pay for office or emergency room visits. You’ll also pay a deductible every year for things not covered by the copay. Then, you pay your coinsurance, which is your part of the total bill. All of these are what you pay out of pocket, and the insurance company pays the rest.
  2. Deductible and coinsurance with no copay: These work the same way, but you don’t pay a copay. These plans are generally less expensive.

From there, the insurance pays your doctor after the insurance company gets the bill.

Choosing a Plan That’s Right for You

When choosing a health insurance plan, you want to take your time and ensure you’re getting one that meets your needs and isn’t costing you more than it’s worth.

If your employer offers a health insurance plan, it’s usually more cost-effective than searching for one on your own. If not, you can browse through your state’s marketplace or purchase health insurance through a private exchange.

There are many types of insurance plans, so compare them before deciding on a health insurance policy. You should also compare out-of-pocket costs and the benefits that come with each plan. Eliminate any plans that do not include your primary care physician. Make sure the plan you choose pays for regular and necessary care for yourself and your family.

Do You Have Good Health Benefits?

Finally, you want to ensure you have good benefits with the health insurance plan you choose. Here are some ways to check if your benefits are worthwhile:

  • What percentage of your plan does your employer pay?
  • Is there a low deductible?
  • Does it offer coverage for things you need, like medications, physical therapy, infertility treatments, and so on?
  • Does it allow you to receive treatment whenever you need it?

Ultimately, make sure the plan you choose covers everything you need. About 40% of those living in the United States would rather have better health insurance through their employer than a pay raise. That proves just how vital health insurance and the proper benefits are for everyone.

Find the Health Insurance You Deserve

Now that you have a better understanding of health insurance, it might be time to look at your policy or search for one if you don’t have health insurance. You never know when your health can take a turn, so it’s better to have health insurance than take a risk.

START HERE

If your children need health coverage, they may be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, CHIP covers pregnant women. Each state offers CHIP coverage, and works closely with its state Medicaid program.

See if your children qualify and apply for CHIP

Each state program has its own rules about who qualifies for CHIP. You can apply right now, any time of year, and find out if you qualify. If you apply for Medicaid coverage to your state agency, you’ll also find out if your children qualify for CHIP. If they qualify, you won’t have to buy an insurance plan to cover them.

2 ways to apply for CHIP:

  • Call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).
  • Fill out an application through the Health Insurance MarketplaceВ®. If it looks like anyone in your household qualifies for Medicaid or CHIP, we’ll send your information to your state agency. They’ll contact you about enrollment. When you submit your Marketplace application, you’ll also find out if you qualify for an individual insurance plan with savings based on your income instead. Create an account or log in to an existing account to get started.

You can apply for and enroll in Medicaid or CHIP any time of year. There’s no limited enrollment period for either Medicaid or CHIP. If you qualify, your coverage can start immediately.

What CHIP covers

CHIP benefits are different in each state. But all states provide comprehensive coverage, including:

  • Routine check-ups
  • Immunizations
  • Doctor visits
  • Prescriptions
  • Dental and vision care
  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital care
  • Laboratory and X-ray services
  • Emergency services

States may provide more CHIP benefits. Check with your state for information about covered services.

What CHIP costs

Routine “well child” doctor and dental visits are free under CHIP. But there may be copayments for other services. Some states charge a monthly premium for CHIP coverage. The costs are different in each state, but you won’t have to pay more than 5% of your family’s income for the year.

More answers

If your children are eligible for CHIP, they won’t be eligible for any savings on Marketplace insurance. CHIP coverage will probably be more affordable. Remember, you and other family members may be eligible for savings on Marketplace insurance coverage.

You may be able to get an insurance plan through the Marketplace, with savings based on your income.

Create an account or log in to an existing account to get started. If it looks like anyone in your household qualifies for Medicaid or CHIP, we’ll send your information to your state agency. They’ll contact you about enrollment. When you submit your Marketplace application, you’ll also find out if you qualify for an individual insurance plan with savings based on your income instead.

Long term care insurance only makes sense if you have assets you’d like to pass on to your heirs but don’t have the financial wherewithal to reasonably self-insure.

This article was originally published on May 6, 2015 and was updated on April 8, 2018.

Long term care insurance is designed to help you cover the costs of a nursing home or other skilled care as you age. As with most insurance policies, you must consider purchasing it before you need it, as policies become either unavailable or prohibitively expensive once it becomes clear that you need the protection.

Long term care insurance generally provides financial help for those who need specialized care on a daily basis. And with rare exceptions, once you start needing nursing-home care beyond a rehabilitation stint that Medicare or your health insurance will likely cover, there’s a good chance you’ll need that care for the rest of your life.

How to know if you have enough health insurance

Image source: Getty Images

The opportunity this combination creates

If your health forces you to make a permanent move to a nursing home, the rest of your major assets (like your house, car, or even any savings you may have) become far less useful to you. So if you’re living alone or if your spouse also needs care, then these assets can be sold to help cover the costs of the care.

Once your assets become nearly completely depleted, Medicaid will step in to cover your remaining long term care costs. Not all nursing home facilities accept Medicaid, however, so you should make sure that yours does if you may need the help of Medicaid.

Additionally, if you’re married and only one spouse needs nursing-home care, then Medicaid provides some protections for the remaining spouse. It generally allows the spouse who doesn’t need care to keep a reasonable place to live and enough assets and income not to force that remaining spouse into abject poverty. Once both you and your spouse pass away, your state may have a Medicaid-related claim against your estate, but that would be an issue for your heirs.

Put those factors together, and the net result is that long term care insurance generally isn’t needed to protect you or your spouse from abject poverty should the need for nursing-home care arise. It can be a useful tool to protect some of your estate for your heirs if leaving an inheritance is important to you.

To insure or not to insure? That is the question

How to know if you have enough health insurance

Image source: Getty Images

Ultimately, if you’re contemplating long term care insurance, you’re considering whether to trade a certain cost today (the insurance premium) for the potential cost down the road (the care itself). Many people start to shop for long term care insurance in their 50s, at which point long term care insurance can cost thousands of dollars per year.

Premiums can vary based on your age, health, and the insurance company’s specific underwriting factors. Your premium will also depend on your personal choices, like the maximum daily benefit level, the length of stay your policy would cover, and any waiting periods before the coverage starts.

According to Genworth‘s (NYSE: GNW) long term care insurance cost estimator, if a typical 60 year-old couple bought coverage that would cover $365,000 apiece worth of lifetime benefits, their premium cost would be around $2,758 each per year ($5,516 per year for the couple). For an individual 55-year-old looking for similar coverage, the price tag would range between $2,760 and $4,057 per year.

Unfortunately, costs for individual plans can vary wildly and are hard to come by without speaking to an insurance salesperson. There’s a free premium calculator tool available for federal government employees who qualify for their group plan at this link. While pricing in that group plan will be different from the costs you will face, it can at least provide a ballpark estimate as you shop for your own long term care insurance.

Unless you reasonably expect to work until you pass away or become incapacitated, you’ll have to keep paying those premiums throughout your retirement to keep the insurance in force. In other words, you’ll need enough spare income in your retirement to pay the premiums, which would require a decent asset base, a strong pension, and/or a very low cost of living.

Indeed, given that long term care insurance primarily protects your estate from Medicaid seizures, it typically only makes sense to carry that insurance if you have a decently positive net worth.

At the upper end of the net worth scale, if you have sufficient net worth, you can self-insure by setting aside a pool of money to cover the cost of any long term care you may need in the future. You see, according to Genworth, the average annual cost of a nursing home room is around $85,776 per year for a semi-private room or $97,452 for a private room. And according to the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance, only about 12% of people stay in nursing homes for more than five years. Further, a typical stay is generally shorter if you’re married than if you’re not, likely reflecting the fact that one member of a couple often functions as a caregiver for the other as they age, delaying the need to move to the nursing home.

So, given that an ordinary couple is unlikely to spend more than about $1 million on long term care ($100,000 per year x 2 people x 5 years per person), insurance looks less worthwhile if your net worth is beyond $2 million, especially if you’re a decent investor.

It’s your choice

How to know if you have enough health insurance

Image source: Getty Images

You may want to consider buying long term care insurance if all three of these apply to you:

  • You want to leave an estate to your heirs;
  • You have enough retirement income to reliably cover both your expected retirement lifestyle and the long term care insurance premiums; and
  • Don’t have enough in assets to reasonably self-insure against the risk

Otherwise, chances are good that you can find better uses for your money than buying that particular insurance.

You are no longer subject to a penalty for not having insurance,В a provision of the Affordable Care Act that was struck down by a judge. However, insurance can help you accessВ health care services and avoid major medical bills.

f paying for insurance is a struggle for you, you may be able to get help from the government. This money is called a subsidy. To get it:

  1. You must enroll in a private insurance plan through your state’s Marketplace.
  2. The amount you make each year must meet certain rules. The good news is that some financial support may be available even if you are in a middle-income range.

For instance, you’ll likely be able to get money if you make up to about $50,000 a year for one person or about $103,000 for a family of four. These income amounts are based on the federal poverty guidelines and will change every year.

How much financial help you get depends on how much money you make a year. The less you make, the more help you get.

Continued

There are two subsidies available. They immediately lower your costs. You don’t have to pay first and get the money later.

  1. Tax credit. A tax credit can help pay for your monthly insurance payments, called the premium. The credit can immediately lower your costs. You don’t have to pay first and get the money later.
  2. Cost-sharing subsidy. If you qualify, you will pay less when you get health care or buy medicine because your deductibles, copays, and coinsurance will be lower.

Your state’s Marketplace will tell you exactly how much assistance you might receive.

In addition, you may qualify for Medicaid – a low-cost program for people with low incomes. You can enroll in Medicaid through your state Marketplace at any time during the year.

In order to shop for a private insurance plan, you must do so during the open enrollment period (usually in the fall). You must enroll in a plan during that timeframe, or you will have to wait until the next open enrollment period, unless you have special circumstances. You may be eligible for a special enrollment period if you had a qualifying event such as losing your job or other insurance coverage. If you are eligible for Medicaid, you can enroll at any time during the year.

Sources

Community Catalyst & Georgetown University Health Policy Institute: “Individual Requirement to Purchase Healthcare in the Affordable Care Act,” “Standardizing Health Plans,” “Federal Subsidies: Helping People Afford Health Care.”

FamiliesUSA: “Help is at Hand: New Health Insurance Tax Credits.”

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: “The Requirement to Buy Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act.”

Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: “Fact Sheet: Individual Shared Responsibility for Health Insurance Coverage and Minimum Essential Coverage Proposed Rules.”

How to know if you have enough health insurance

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By Shrutika Nagpal

Most of us are offered Health Insurance as a perquisite or benefit attached to our jobs. Because this insurance is built into our contract, we rarely analyze or compare it with other plans, never putting in the due diligence we would otherwise to buy other types of insurance. However, just because one does not have the option of rejecting employer’s health insurance does not mean one should not analyze the pros and cons of these group plans. More often than not, these plans are limited in the cover they provide and come with problematic loopholes. So how do you ensure you are well covered?

Getting a health insurance plan that requires you to pay premium regularly and in return only get reimbursement for actual expenses, can be a costly substitute. What you can opt for instead is a lump sum fixed benefit plan that gives you additional cover for hospitalization, surgeries, and critical illnesses. This plan should cover you for a range of surgeries, as these are medical procedures that cost the most. It must also provide cover for a number of critical illnesses, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, kidney failure, etc. As these diseases are on the rise and a reimbursement based Health Insurance plan which pays for actuals will not cover all expenses- you need a lump sum pay-out that can be used to cover all costs involved – be it pre or post hospitalization.

To demonstrate why and how employer’s health insurance plans may not be sufficient, we have outlined how these plans fall short, and how you can make up for their shortcomings:

• Restricted Customization Options

Employers negotiate all aspects of the group cover—including number of critical illnesses and diseases covered, inclusion of dependents, minimum and maximum sum assured— directly with the insurer, which means you cannot always ensure that the critical illnesses and surgeries you are prone to, given familial history, are covered.

A fixed benefit plan offering various combinations of benefits and options for the sum insured, inclusion of all family members along with freedom to customize the payout for each benefit will help you take control of your family’s health.

Want cover solely for daily hospitalization expenses? A group plan is unlikely to offer such flexibility. This negative aspect can be overcome or nullified through a fixed benefits plan to cover hospital admission, specified surgeries, and numerous major critical illnesses for your entire family.

• No Guaranteed Continuation of the Plan

Employers offering group cover as a perquisite or facility can always choose to discontinue the plan. Further, the coverage is linked to continuation in the job. Quit the job and the policy is automatically terminated. Unlike individual plans, a group plan cannot be extended or renewed for as long as one wants. The coverage will get terminated once the policy holder reaches the age of retirement. Moving from a group plan to an individual plan after retirement will always be costlier than renewing an existing individual plan.

An individual plan that can be renewed annually will be an expensive alternative offering no real benefits. What you need is a five-year fixed benefit individual plan that will ensure your family is protected irrespective of your employment status. From a family member needing ICU hospitalization for ten days to surgery for diabetes-related complications, the supplementary plan you choose must offer complete peace of mind.

• Little Scope for Planning for the Future

The concept of group plans originated in an era when healthcare was not very costly and health insurance was not considered necessary. Hence, these plans focus on lowering cost of the cover even if it involves degradation of quality of the care.

Will the plan reimburse the daily expenses resulting from hospital admission, even for a short period of just 7-10 days? Can you opt for a surgery with absolutely zero worries about the cost of the procedure? Does the plan give you the confidence that no family member will lack proper care and treatment when suffering from a critical illness?

Group plans are suitable for routine and ordinary health expenses. To truly plan for the future, you need a plan that offers assured lump sum benefits at very lenient terms and conditions.

One needs a plan that effectively plugs the gaps in the group plan without unnecessary duplication of coverage. A fixed benefit plan like new HDFC Life Easy Health that gives you additional protection for recurring expenses during hospital stay, surgeries and treatment of critical illnesses combined with your group plan, will help you retain control over your family’s health cover well within the budget.

Group Plans Lag behind—the Numbers Story

Data obtained from a pan-India survey covering more than 3000 employees
• 59% employees want coverage for general consultation as well. Only 39% enjoyed this benefit in their group plan.
• 31% sought inclusion of diagnostic services, which was offered by just 20% employers.
• Only 28% employers offered maternity education as a group plan benefit that was sought by 73% of all female employees.

Other Issues
• No option to customize plans to cover risks based on family history.
• Perfunctory coverage for surgeries and critical illnesses.
• High out of the pocket expenses during hospitalization.

Conclusion
• Premium escalation is inevitable and unavoidable in group plan as well2
• Gap in coverage benefits can impair the efficacy of the plan
• A smart combination of fixed benefits and group cover is an effective way to minimize the negatives of group cover.

Sources:

1 http://www.financialexpress.com/article/healthcare/happening-now/indias-employees-want-more-medical-benefits-from-employers-cigna-ttk-study/161841/
2 https://www.towerswatson.com/en-IN/Insights/IC-Types/Survey-Research-Results/2010/04/Healthcare-Benefits-in-India

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BY Vaughn Himber Updated on January 11, 2021

As a small business employer, you may be wondering what your health insurance requirements are. What are the criteria your small business needs to fulfill in order to offer health insurance, and what are your obligations toward your employees?

Continue reading to learn about employer health insurance requirements.

Are employers required to offer health insurance?

The provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) determine whether an employer is required to offer health insurance or not. In most states, small businesses with under 50 full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees have no legal requirement to offer health insurance. However, if a small business does decide to offer medical coverage, then it must meet the following health insurance requirements.

  • The health insurance coverage must be offered to all full-time employees. Typically, full-time employees are defined as those who work 30 or more hours per week.
  • A small business has no obligation to offer health insurance to part-time employees (usually defined as employees who work less than 30 hours per week).
  • However, if an employer offers insurance to at least one part-time employee, then the small business must offer group coverage to all part-time employees.

Conversely, an employer with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees is considered to be an applicable large employer (ALE), and is legally required to offer health insurance to all of its workers, as per the ACA’s health insurance requirements related to employer shared responsibility provisions.

What are contribution and cost-sharing requirements for employers?

Since group health insurance plans are a form of employer-sponsored coverage, this means that a business is required to share the cost of health insurance with employees. Typically, this cost-sharing element of health insurance requirements refers to a small business splitting monthly premium costs with workers.

In most states, employers are required to contribute or pay for at least 50 percent of each employee’s health insurance premiums, although this depends on the state the business is located in.

Are employers required to offer health insurance to employee dependents?

Health insurance plans generally allow qualified dependents to be added to any plan. However, for group health insurance plans, it is optional for employers to pay for the health insurance coverage of employee dependents. In most cases, employees can still add qualified dependents to their health plan, regardless of whether their employer decides to contribute to dependents’ premiums.

What documents are required for an employer to offer health insurance?

In order to meet health insurance requirements, a small business must provide copies of all relevant legal, tax, and accounting information when applying for group coverage. Employers are required to submit certain forms of documentation, including:

  • Proof of business location
  • Proof of business type
  • Payroll documentation

This standard information is used to verify and authenticate the legitimacy of a small business, and much of it is available through a previous year’s business tax filings. Ensuring that your company provides the right documentation can help streamline the process of meeting the health insurance requirements needed to offer group coverage to your employees.

Employer health insurance requirements summarized

Although small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to offer health insurance, most workers highly value group health coverage and tend to sign up if group plans are available. There are also benefits for employers as well: business owners and their families may be able to enroll in their company’s health plan along with their employees, and they may benefit from business tax deductions.

eHealth’s licensed agents can answer your questions about employer health insurance requirements, and can help you find the right group health plan for your business. You can also quickly find and compare free quotes for small business health insurance by visiting eHealth.com.

This article is for general information and may not be updated after publication. Consult your own tax, accounting, or legal advisor instead of relying on this article as tax, accounting, or legal advice.

If you got stuck with a high deductible health insurance plan, you’re not alone: 39 percent of us (under age 65) have a plan with at least a $1,300 deductible. For years, I had a plan with a whopping $8,000 family deductible. You’re not totally screwed, though. You can still get care without breaking the bank, if you know a few tricks.

High deductible plans are becoming more common as health care costs rise . An insurance company can raise their deductible instead of raising their premiums, and that makes your insurance look cheaper. It’s actually a pretty good deal if you’re healthy enough and lucky enough that you never rack up huge bills.

If you do need to use the health care system, having insurance still helps because your insurance company negotiates better rates than you’d get if you pay cash. I once got a bill for $2,000 that had been knocked down from $42,000 without any money changing hands. Still, having a high deductible sucks, and here’s how you can survive it.

Take Advantage of Preventive Care Freebies

Don’t think you have to stay away from the doctor if you want to save money. Your insurance plan is required to give you certain types of preventive care and medications for free—that means no copay, and without touching your deductible .

All the Free Health Care You Can Get Without Using Your Deductible

If you’re putting off a checkup or a tetanus booster because you think you’d have to pay a ton for…

That means you can get vaccines, cholesterol screenings, birth control, and more without paying a cent. Check with your insurance plan about the details; you’ll have to go to an in-network provider, and in some cases there might be an office visit fee. But, by law, all non-grandfathered health plans must provide these freebies. And taking advantage of them will help you keep control of your overall health, which is good for your body and your wallet in the long run.

Pay Into a Health Savings Account

A health savings account , or HSA, is a tax-free emergency fund for medical expenses. If you have a high-deductible plan, you’re eligible to open this type of account, and you (or your employer) can contribute to it as part of your paycheck.

If You Have High Deductible Health Insurance, Consider Opening an HSA

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are like an emergency fund for your health care expenses. When you…

Don’t confuse the HSA you need with a flexible savings account (FSA) , which has a lot more restrictions. The HSA we’re talking about has two serious perks:

  • You don’t pay taxes on the money you put into (or take out of) an HSA. That’s equivalent to a steep discount on your medical expenses.
  • The money in an HSA is yours forever. It stays in the account at the end of the year, unlike the money in an FSA. It stays in the account even if you change jobs or insurance plans. It is your money. If you don’t end up using it for medical expenses, you can withdraw it tax-free if you become disabled or when you retire .

Ideally, you’ll budget for regular contributions to your HSA. Then, when you start getting medical bills, the money will be sitting in your account ready to go.

The downside is that if you sign up in January, and then break your leg in February, you won’t have much money in your HSA to start covering costs. In that case, you’ll have to dip into your regular emergency fund, or talk to the hospital about a payment plan. But if you manage to save a whole deductible’s worth of money and you don’t end up needing it, that money will still be in your account next year.

Know Your Cheapest Options for Care

As tempting as it might be, don’t forgo care that you really need. It’s unfortunate that sometimes we have to choose between our wallet and our health, but use your best judgment and be smart about it. Here are a few things you can do right now to help make that choice easier:

  • Buy anambulance subscription. In my area, paying $50 up front buys as many free ambulance rides as you need (otherwise $700 a pop). That works out to just $4 a month, and makes it way easier to pick up the phone when it’s time to call 911.
  • Find atelemedicine servicethat works in your area. Each company only operates in certain states. If you’re not sure whether something requires an in-person doctor visit, a telemedicine call can be a cheap and easy way to find out. A typical call is around $40 with little to no wait time.
  • Check your insurance company’s services. They may have a free hotline staffed by nurses, or a discount on telemedicine.

When you do need care—especially if it’s something you have advance warning about, like an elective surgery—make sure to shop around. GoodRx can help you find the best prices on prescription drugs , and your insurance company probably has a tool to help you estimate the cost of procedures. It’s often impossible to find the exact price tag for your care , but tools like the Health Care Blue Book can help you estimate.

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