7 Tips to Pay Less for Health Insurance

Photo (cc) by Waldo Jaquith

Last week was the second anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – “health care reform” to its supporters, “Obamacare” to its detractors. This week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about the law and may strike none, part, or all of it.

That makes this a good time to give your health insurance a check-up. If the cost of your coverage is entirely borne by your employer, you should still understand your policy. And if you cover the cost yourself, you’re already aware of the bite it takes from your budget – learning what you’re paying for and how it works allows you to make decisions that can lower the cost.

In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson offers some tips on shopping for health insurance. Check it out, and then read on for more details…

As you heard in the video, prices for insurance can vary widely. Fortunately, you have some control. Here are the key factors you need to know to manage the cost of your coverage…

1. Deductible

This is your out-of-pocket expense before your insurance kicks in. As with car insurance, the higher your deductible, the lower your rate. If you have few regular medical expenses and are in good health, choosing a plan with a higher deductible may be a good option.

On the other hand, if you can’t afford to cover a big deductible, you might get sick and not seek the care you need. That can lead to bigger problems – medical and financial – down the road. You can learn more about the pros and cons of high-deductible plans, and the health savings accounts they’re often paired with, in Is High Deductible Health Insurance Healthy?

2. Network

“Networks” are simply agreements between the insurer and care providers. Doctors and facilities that are “in-network” (partnered with your insurer) will cost less than those outside the network. This makes it important to find a plan that includes care from people and places you trust in your area. Just because a network sounds large doesn’t mean it includes the doctors and specialists who matter most to you.

Not sure where to go? You might find a social network for your health network, which can also be a good place for advice and recommendations if you have to switch doctors.

3. Discounts

In Health Care Reform = Free Preventive Care? Not Exactly, Stacy explained how his supposedly free physical resulted in a bill for more than $730. Fortunately, his discounts reduced that to about $100. When comparing plans, compare negotiated rates for common expenses like office visits and lab work. (And know what preventive services are covered under the law, so you don’t have to go through what Stacy did.) Some plans may also offer discounts for things that help you get healthy – like weight loss or quit-smoking programs.

The higher your deductible, the more important it is to find the lowest negotiated rates.

4. Co-pays and stop loss

Co-pays, or coinsurance, are expenses you share with the insurer. So if you have an 80/20 co-pay, your insurer covers 80 percent of the tab and you pick up 20 percent. When the total amount you’ve paid meets your stop loss, your insurer picks up the entire bill. The higher the stop loss, also called an out-of-pocket maximum, the lower the rate will be.

5. Exclusions

“Covered expenses” is a key phrase. Your insurance coverage only applies to what the insurer decides it does. Nobody knows what disease they may face later in life, but it could be disastrous to pay your insurance premium for years only to find out your expensive illness isn’t covered. Policies with more exclusions may be cheaper, but they might not be worth it. Make sure you understand what’s included (and excluded) from your coverage.

6. Quality

Smaller, less-known insurers might charge lower rates, but it’s important to check out their financial health. If they go under, you could too. Aim for companies that are rated at least ‘A’ by A.M. Best (where A++ is the best possible) or Standard and Poor’s (where AAA is best). It’s a good idea to stick with companies you can count on in the long run.

7. Length

A few years ago, Stacy found that his insurer of seven years was offering new customers a policy exactly like his for half the price. When he called to find out why, they couldn’t provide a reasonable explanation, nor would they do an interview for Money Talks News. As you might imagine, Stacy is no longer a customer.

If you’re hunting for a new policy, start with our insurance shopping tool and with HealthCare.gov. For more on how coverage has been changing since health care reform passed, check out Health Care Reform: 8 Positive Changes and 4 Reasons Your Health Insurance Needs a Check-up – Stat.

And here’s the primary rule for health insurance, as well as any other kind you might consider: Make sure your new policy is in effect before you drop the old one. Never, ever be uninsured, even for a day.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
19 Things You Should Never Buy at a Grocery Store
19 Things You Should Never Buy at a Grocery Store

These household necessities are overpriced at the grocery store. Get them cheaper at these places instead.

The Worst Nursing Homes in America Are Revealed
The Worst Nursing Homes in America Are Revealed

The nursing homes with a history of providing subpar care previously hadn’t been identified for a government list.

5 States Where Drivers Pay the Most for Car Insurance
5 States Where Drivers Pay the Most for Car Insurance

Auto insurance will cost you more than three times as much in one state compared with another. Here’s how to lower your rates no matter where you live.

8 Things I Always Buy at Costco
8 Things I Always Buy at Costco

From bacon to birthday cakes, here are my favorite deals at the popular warehouse store.

7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New
7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New

Take a few steps to preserve the beauty of your car, and you stand to get a lot more money at trade-in time.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss
21 Items to Cut From Your Budget That You Won’t Even Miss

Start off the new year by implementing these small-but-smart savings strategies. They’ll soon add up.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

5 States Lowering Taxes This Year and 2 Raising Them
5 States Lowering Taxes This Year and 2 Raising Them

State personal income tax rates, brackets and deductions just changed in these places.

7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster
7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster

These tips can get your bathroom sparkling with little time and no elbow grease.

11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked
11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked

Does your retirement budget account for all of these costs?

20 Amazon Purchases We Loved in 2020
20 Amazon Purchases We Loved in 2020

These practical products made everyday life a little easier last year — and will do so in the new year, too.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.