Employer-Offered Health Care Costs: A Breakdown of the Basics
You are gainfully employed and have access to health insurance through your employer. So how do you make the most of your health insurance to control your health care costs? Here's what you need to know to make the best choice for you and your family.
Evaluate Your Situation
You should take factors like your age, health situation, and whether you're single, married and/or have children into account when deciding what type of health insurance plan you should sign up for. For example, if you're young, single and healthy you might take a higher deductible to save money on your monthly premiums. On the other hand, if you take several prescription medications, you'll want to focus on the types of drug plan features your policy offers.
Understand Your Coverage Options
When it comes to your primary care provider, choose a doctor who is part of your plan's network. If your provider isn't part of your plan's network, the cost of seeing that doctor may not be covered. This also applies to hospitals and other medical providers like dentists and eye doctors.
Be sure you understand all the benefits of your coverage. For example, it's common for many plans to fully cover flu shots. Take advantage of these benefits. Does your plan require you to undergo tests to determine if you're a tobacco user or conduct other screenings in return for a discount on your premiums? If so, this can save you money on the costs of your coverage throughout the year.
Take Advantage of Open Enrollment
Each year employers have a window during which employees must enroll in their benefits for the following year. This is called open enrollment and usually occurs in the fall. It is the one of the few times during the year when you can switch your coverage options. Typically, the only other time you can switch is after major life events such as marriage or the birth of a child.
The Benefit of HSAs and FSAs
Health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are accounts offered by employers that allow you to contribute money on a pretax basis to cover qualified out-of-pocket health care costs. An HSA can only be used with a high-deductible health plan. This money can be carried over year-to-year if it's not used. In fact, your HSA account is portable and can move with you when changing jobs. It can also be invested, and some liken an HSA to an IRA because the money can be saved until retirement to cover the cost of health care. On the other hand, FSA money must be used by the end of the plan year or you lose it. It's best to estimate your out-of-pocket costs for the year and have no more than this amount deducted from your salary each pay period.
Health insurance from your employer can be a great tool to manage health care costs. Be sure to select the best policy option for your needs and that you understand and utilize the various benefits offered.