Affordable health care can describe two areas: medical healthcare and lower cost health insurance plans provided by health insurance companies. This overview will take a look at ways to access affordable health care in both areas.
Health care costs continue to rise, and it is estimated medical expenses will increase 6.5% in 2017, according to a Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s forecast.1 This is being attributed to a stronger economy and a “pent up” need for medical care. During the economic slump that began in 2008, health care spending slowed as job loss and tighter budgets forced Americans to re-think expenditures. Now with a stronger economy and the Affordable Care Act in full swing, more individuals and families have cash in the bank and health insurance, either from their employer or through the government exchanges.
Yet, with all of this spending, there is still a downside. Medical debt is the number one cause for bankruptcy in the United States today.2 Employers are shifting more costs onto employees, and today more and more people have high deductible health insurance plans. If you know the first $5,000 of medical expenses are your responsibility, foregoing medical care isn’t always best choice for your overall health and wellness.
Affordable health care
There are low cost medical care options that are cheaper than seeing a physician in a doctor’s office. The average cost of an office visit is $180 alone, not including tests or materials used during your exam. Plus there is the wait time of getting an appointment, transportation to the appointment, and then waiting for the doctor to see you. Here are some lower cost alternatives:
Doctor on Demand is an online video consultation that gives you access to board certified doctors from the comfort of your home using your desktop, tablet or mobile device. Face to face video visits are $40, and you can have your diagnosis and prescription in minutes. Physicians with Doctor on Demand include general practitioners with specialties in preventive medicine and internal medicine, pediatricians and psychologists.
The First Derm online dermatology app allows you to photograph a rash or skin irritation that is bothering you or your child. You receive a diagnosis and if necessary, a prescription within 24 hours of uploading your photo. The service is completely confidential, and only costs $40 per case review. If you are referred to a dermatologist for further consultation, First Derm directs you to the closest dermatologist, pediatrician or clinic.
Retail clinics found in drug stores like CVS or retail stores like Target offer walk-in access for anyone suffering from minor illnesses or in need of wellness screenings or vaccinations. You can even make appointments in advance.
Affordable health insurance
Before you ever need to see a doctor, affordable health care begins with your health insurance plan. If you are not able to select your type of healthcare plan because your employer does it for you, there are still ways to save.
Employer health insurance
Nearly 20% of employers only provide high deductible health insurance plans to their employees. A high deductible plan means you have to pay several thousand dollars out of your own pocket before your health insurance kicks in. If this sounds like the type of insurance you have, consider opening a health savings account. Individuals with a qualifying high deductible health insurance plan can put pre-tax dollars away into a health savings account (HSA). The account is typically managed by a bank, but ask your human resources department if they have a special affiliation already established with a financial institution that could give you a better rate on your HSA. Also ask if they would be willing to subtract a set amount of your salary or hourly wage from each paycheck and directly transfer the money each month into your HSA. That way, you will have cash saved to pay medical bills before they arrive.
Obamacare health insurance plan
Purchasing your own healthcare plan? Obamacare plan rates vary from state to state, but the plans benefits are consistent no matter where you live. First, analyze your medical needs against the cost of a health care plan. One rule of thumb to remember – the cheaper the health insurance, the more you will have to pay out of pocket for medical services. The more expensive the healthcare plan, the more coverage you’ll have. If you are healthy and only see a doctor for preventive services, an affordable health care Bronze or Silver plan might work well for your lifestyle. If you have a chronic condition, like diabetes, you could save money overall with a Gold or Platinum plan. You will pay more each month for health insurance, but a larger portion of doctor office visits and hospital stays might be covered, costing you less long term.
Supplemental health insurance
Another way to save cash is to purchase a supplemental health insurance plan, which help bridge your gap in coverage. Think of it as a warranty for your health care plan. If you have an unexpected accident or become critically ill, supplemental health insurance for people over 65 and supplemental health insurance for people under 65 gives you a lump sum of cash to pay your deductible, medical bills or other family expenses, like child care, the mortgage or student loans. The choice of where to spend the money is completely your decision. And anyone can purchase supplemental health insurance, employees and the self-employed alike.
Obtaining affordable health care is possible if you know how to shop for your health insurance properly, and utilize low cost medical alternatives.
1 “Medical Cost Trend: Behind The Numbers 2017.” PricewaterhouseCooper. June 2014.
2 “NerdWallet Finds Medical Bankruptcy Accounts for Majority of Personal Bankruptcies.” Christina LaMontagne. March 26, 2014.