16 ways to lower your health insurance costs and premiums

In our guide "Buying health insurance - everything you need to know" we discussed some ways to save money on your health insurance. In this article we share additional ways you can realize savings on your health care costs.

  1. Avoid using the emergency room when all you need is an appointment with your doctor in his clinic. ERs can be very expensive especially and they can make you wait longer.

  2. Consider a high-deductible health plan. This plan can be had at cheap rates because of the high deductible (for 2011, the minimum deductible for the individual is $1,200, while for family it is set at $2,400). Getting one also affords the policyholder to get a health savings account, which carries tax benefits. The savings account allows the holder to choose the services he wants to pay for and at the same time provides him opportunity to grow his money.

  3. Consider membership with the American Farm Bureau Federation. You do not have to be a farmer to be a member. What is required is payment of the yearly membership fee of under $50. Benefits can include discounts in health insurance. In some areas, members also get free insurance for accidental deaths.

  4. If you will be switching jobs, request your current employer for an extension of your policy. It is important that you always have coverage. In case this is not possible, consider getting an inexpensive, short-term plan, which will give you coverage up until your new plan with the new employer takes effect.

  5. Maximize the benefits of extras. Many insurance companies offer a number of extra services. Some, for instance, offer discounts on weight loss programs, gym memberships, etc.

  6. Get regular health checkups. These allow early detection of medical problems, which could cost you more in the future. Generally, policies provide full coverage for checkups so you do not have to worry about costs.

  7. Take advantage of routine vaccines for children. These can significantly lower your child's chances of getting ill and along with it the risk of incurring high medical bills.

  8. Consider special programs for individuals with ongoing conditions. These programs offer discounted preventive care services and medication for people with allergies or asthma.

  9. Take advantage of flexible spending accounts. Many employers offer FSAs which can be utilized for out-of-pocket costs like dental cleanings, pain reliever for infants, contact lenses, bandages, replacement eyeglasses, etc.

  10. Check hospital or doctor bills thoroughly. Billing mistakes are common and they can be expensive for you. The wrong code used, or the wrong information recorded can lead to a denial of an insurance claim.

  11. An insurance company's network is always subject to change. Always check that your physician is in that network before you visit him.

  12. Split cost by getting services in two different plan years. For example, you need extensive services from your dentist. You ask him to start the initial work in December 2012 and then you go back in January 2013 for the remainder of services. This way, the cost of coverage is split under two different plan years.

  13. Bring along a list of medications covered under your plan. You can share this with your physician so he knows what medicines are there and which ones will cost the least.

  14. When asking for a referral from your primary care doctor, show him a list of in-network providers so he can refer the best specialist who is a participant in the plan.

  15. Ask for free samples. Drug companies usually provide doctors with free samples who stock them in their clinics. You can also request them from these drug companies' websites.

  16. Get dental services at dental schools. Clinics at these schools are staffed with students who get supervision from real dentists. You can get discounts of up to fifty percent which can be significant if you are getting an implant. Local dental schools can be searched at American Dental Association at www.ada.org .

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