For many patients, the first few months of a new year mean larger medical expenses. New deductibles typically must be met before health care coverage kicks in.
But there are steps patients can take to prepare for these bills. Here are some tips to consider:
- Talk to your doctor. Physicians might be able to offer less-expensive treatment options, but understand whether these alternatives are equally effective, a recent Associated Press story recommends.
- Shop around. Many health insurance providers offer mobile apps or services through their website to help patients compare health care costs based on their coverage, the AP story says.
- Start saving. Establish a You Name It Savings account to systematically save for known medical expenses, such as eyeglasses or dental work, and an emergency fund for the unknown medical expenses that pop up. “You should always have an emergency medical fund set aside, just in case,” says Tami Rechtenbach, vice president of member services at Dupaco Community Credit Union.
- Take advantage of flex spending. Find out whether your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account for healthcare-related or childcare-related expenses. These tax-advantaged funds can be used to pay for eligible medical, dental and childcare expenses. But you must spend your balance by a certain date, or you lose it.
- Look into a Health Savings Account. Check with your health insurance provider to find out whether you have an HSA-qualified plan, which allows participants to¬ make tax-deductible contributions, earn tax-free dividends on contributions and withdraw money tax-free for qualified medical expenses. Dupaco’s dividend-bearing Health Savings Account gives participants easy access to their money. “With all of the changes in the health care industry, we’ve seen a huge increase in Health Savings Accounts being opened,” Rechtenbach says.