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Most Americans who file for bankruptcy can’t afford their medical bills, though the majority (80%) are either covered by their jobs or privately, reports the American Journal of Medicine.Now there’s more bad news for boomers in this shaky job market: Health care costs are expected to rise (again) and employees will likely be asked to contribute 22% more than they did last year, Aon Hewitt, a global outsourcing business, announced today.
“In what continues to be an uncertain economic environment, organisations cannot afford health care costs growing at 7% each year,” said John Zern, executive vice president and the Americas Practice Director for Health & Benefits for Aon Hewitt. “While health care reform continues to represent potential systemic change in a few years, employers will continue to shift cost to employees in order to keep company costs to a manageable level.”
To deal with the rising costs, your best defence might be taking advantage of Open Enrollment season.
Between September through December, employees can review their health care options in order to avoid cashing out unnecessary medical payments, plus can change their plan and/or remove children who have already grown up.
“Employees should not assume everything is the same from the previous year…[they] often do not take enough time to thoroughly review all their benefit options,” said UnitedHealthcare in an email with Business Insider.
According to a survey conducted by the health carrier, consumers spend one hour on average researching their benefit options compared to 10 hours researching a new car.
We spoke to UnitedHealthcare to get six easy tips to improve your health while saving money at the same time:
1. Compare plans. Decide which you can pay less of: premiums or co-payments. If you’re young and healthy, you probably won’t visit the doctor that much so a cheaper premium and higher co-pay would suit you just fine. In contrast, if you’re older or have children, go for the higher premium and less expensive co-pay, suggests MSN.
2. Look for incentive-based health programs. Get rewarded for taking care of yourself! Some insurers’ incentive-based programs provide financial rewards for lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, and even committing to a gym membership. A recent survey reported there will be a 6% increase in employers adopting incentive-based wellness programs by 2012, according to Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health. Such programs ask employees a series of questions to track their wellness and sometimes provide coaching sessions offering updates and feedback to employers.
3. Open a Health Savings Account. An HSA acts like a personal bank account where the money is directly deposited pre-tax from your paycheck so you can track it more closely, but it’s different from a Flexible Spending Accounts in that your benefits will rollover. If you don’t use the money during a certain period, it will rollover to the next, just like your cell phone minutes.
Since the money is yours—and not your employers’—you can use the funds any way you’d prefer, but they have to be for health expenses. If you’re young and healthy, an HSA is a good choice, but if you anticipate needing extensive medical aid in the near future, consider opting out since an HSA requires a high deductible, according to Mayo Clinic.
4. Get preventive care. These services include child immunization, annual physicals, mammograms, and colonoscopies, which all fall under the new Affordable Care Act for non-grandfathered health plans.
5. Compare treatment costs plan-to-plan. We cannot stress it enough: Review, review, review! Compare medical treatments and physicians on different plans—and in and out of your network—to find the best fit for your budget.
6. Don’t overlook your other benefits. Some plans provide you with tens of thousands of dollars in case you are unable to work for an extended period of time, and can cost as little as a couple of dollars per month. If you’re a little older or work in a potentially hazardous environment, consider enrolling in these benefits to protect yourself.
For additional questions, contact your insurance carrier.
Here’s a look at the increasing costs by plan type:
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