Health care is one of the major expenses that most of us need, but dread paying for because it continually rises. Especially for those of us who do not get medical insurance from our employers, or we are our own employers, health care can cost quite a bit out of pocket. Even those of us who do get insurance from an employer, out-of-pocket expenses can be high.

Luckily, there are 10 things you can do to save some money on health care.

1. Shop Around

Choosing the insurance provider with the lowest premium may seem like a good idea, but you also need to consider other factors like your specific health care needs. When comparing the different prices of health insurance, go in armed and ready. Write down how often your family members visit the doctor yearly, recurring and other services you use most often. Then, take a look at the different plans and what you will end up paying for these services on each of them. A medical plan isn’t worth it if you have to pay a hefty price for each service even if the premium is low.

2. Look At High-deductible (HD) Plans

HD plans come with higher deductibles but much lower premiums. If you and your family do not visit the doctor that often, then a HD plan may be beneficial for you. However, if someone in your family has chronic health issues that take them to the doctor fairly often, then a HD plan is probably not the best choice for you.

3. Scrutinize Over HMO vs. PPO

The difference between a HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) and a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) could determine how much you pay and how much you save. In general, a PPO offers you more flexibility when it comes to choosing your doctors and your hospitals, but it also comes with the higher price tag. A HMO usually will have lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs, however, you are more limited in the providers you can go to.

4. Look For Discount Clubs

Discount plans are another option for saving money on medical and dental insurance. Companies like AmeriPlan and Careington International offer discount plans to their members. You will need to pay a membership fee, and you also need to pay a co-pay at the time of your visit.

5. Look into the farm bureau

If your state has a farm bureau, consider joining. You do not need to be a farmer to join, you just need to pay the annual membership fee. With your membership, you can get all kinds of benefits that include discounted health insurance in certain states.

6. Watch For Special Services

Some health providers offer special programs for patients who have ongoing medical conditions that may take them to the doctor fairly often.

7. Read The Fine Print

In medical insurance, there is sometimes fine print that you need to watch out for. Many policies include age banding, where insurance companies charge you a higher rate as you age with the idea being that the older you are, the more health care you may need. Some policies also have pre-existing condition clauses, where the insurance company states that they do not have to pay for any charges relating to a condition you had before enrolling. For example, some insurance companies will not cover the birth of a child if the mother enrolls while she is already pregnant. Before you pick a medical plan, double check if there are age restrictions, age banding and extra clauses that may apply to you or anyone in your family.

8. Take Advantage Of Flex Spending

If you get insurance from your employer but are still paying a ton out-of-pocket, sign up for a flexible spending account (FSA) if your employer offers one. A FSA is a non-taxable accounts that you use to pay for your out-of-pocket expenses. You will need to estimate how much you will spend of medical expenses during the year and put it in your FSA. Many employers allow you to break this amount up over the course of the year, taking a portion out of each paycheck. The money goes into a FSA, which you use to pay for all your expenses: co-pays, prescriptions, over the counter medicines, glasses or contacts, dental cleanings and even items like bandages.

9. Re-read Your Bills

You may be surprised to find out the up to 50% of doctor and hospital bills contain errors. These mistakes may be costing you more money that you know. Erroneous billing could cause the insurance company to cover less than they should, and result in more cost for you. Other errors that commonly occur: wrong account numbers, claims sent to wring insurance company resulting in a rejected claim and claims with incomplete information on them. When you get a bill, go over it carefully and make sure that everything on it is correct. If you find an error, call your insurance company to get it fixed. Call up in a couple weeks to follow up and make sure that the error was corrected.

10. Plan Ahead

If you are planning of switching employers, ask your insurance company if you can extend your policy from your previous employer. Under the COBRA law, many companies are required to provide you with medical insurance for a certain period of time after you leave their employment. If you don’t fall under the COBRA law, look for a short-term insurance plan to cover you while you wait for your new insurance to kick in. Going without insurance could end up costing you more if something should happen to you or a family member in that short amount of time.

The cost of medical insurance and medical bills keep going up every year. Luckily, these 10 tips can help you save some money on your insurance premium, co-pays and out-of-pocket-expenses.

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