Managing Medical Expenses for Your Family

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As a mom, you know how expensive it is to raise a family. Your online business is a way to add to your household income, but even with that help, bills can pile up if you aren’t planning properly. Considering medical expenses make up approximately 8% of annual spending for American households, managing these costs is essential.

Luckily, there are several ways to successfully prepare for expensive health care bills. With the right planning, research, compromises, and legwork, you can confidently manage your family’s medical expenses.

Choose the Right Plan

Health insurance coverage can provide significant savings on medical costs, but choosing the right one for your family is essential.

  1. Pick Appropriate Medical Coverage

If you or your children don’t have medical insurance through another adult in the household, you’ll want to shop around for a family policy. As an online business owner, you won’t have the opportunity to get insurance from an employer, but you still have options.

Look online and weigh your options carefully. A high premium will cost more each month, but you will generally have lower out-of-pocket costs when you need medical care. A high deductible will save on monthly expenses, but you’ll need to shell out more money before insurance kicks in.

Get Familiar With Your Policy

Once you have health insurance you feel meets all your needs, get to know it inside and out. You may find hidden costs or perks upon careful inspection.

1. Check for Free Perks

If you’re looking to join a gym or start a weight loss program, you may be surprised that your health insurance could help you pay. Knowing your policy is important, so you don’t miss out on exciting perks like these and more.

Some plans give you access to discounts on at-home fitness equipment, too. Others might help you pay for travel or offer discounted tickets to shows and amusement parks, but you’ll never know if you don’t check.

2. Ensure Your Expenses Are Covered

Your policy manual will detail which procedures, tests, and services are covered and which ones aren’t. A general familiarity with your coverage will help you discuss a care plan with your doctor that benefits the situation and your wallet. Also, you’ll be able to check your bills to ensure your insurance company covered what they said they would.

Know Where to Go

Knowing where to go and what provider to use for each medical situation is crucial for saving on your family’s health care expenses.

1. Stay In-Network

Visiting a provider within your network is much more cost-effective than choosing one outside. Your health insurance company negotiates with particular doctors and hospitals to establish discounted services. You can cash in on those savings by selecting one of the options recommended by your insurance carrier.

2. Select the Right Care Setting

Learning when to use each care setting will help you save money on your family’s medical expenses. In general, emergency room visits are far more expensive than urgent care or your doctor’s office. So, you should only go to the ER in life-threatening situations.

If you or someone in your family needs immediate attention but it isn’t life-threatening, like a broken bone, then you should go to urgent care. Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor for anything that can wait a day or two.

Do Your Research

When time allows, putting in some extra research could save you a great deal of money on medical bills.

1. Learn the Fair Market Price

Using readily available online tools, establish the fair market price of the visit, test, or procedure you need. Once you know what you should be paying, you’ll no longer be stuck overpaying for the same service. Shop around for a provider that already offers a reasonable rate or is willing to negotiate the cost.

2. Know Your Options

Discuss treatment plans with your doctor to see if everything is medically necessary. You certainly don’t want to cut corners with your family’s health, but you should also check that you aren’t paying for tests or procedures you don’t absolutely need.

Plan Ahead for Expenses

You rarely expect an accident or severe illness. However, planning for these expenses will ensure you have funds when the unimaginable happens.

1. Open an HSA

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-exempt account where you can set aside money for future medical expenses. Any withdrawals from the HSA intended for qualified health costs are tax-free. You may still take money out of the account for other reasons if you’re willing to pay taxes on the amount you withdraw.

The HSA remains yours even if you start a new job or change insurance policies. Your HSA can cover medical expenses for you, a spouse, and any dependents you claim on your taxes.

2. Set Up an Emergency Fund

In addition to an HSA, you should consider creating a savings account as an emergency fund. Covering expenses can be difficult if you or another adult in your household can’t work because of illness, injury, or unemployment.

Building an emergency fund for this purpose will give you peace of mind and a cushion for when life happens. Start by working towards one month of your household’s total expenses and work up from there.

Be Ready to Negotiate

Medical bills are very rarely set in stone. You just need to know who to talk to and what to say.

1. Ask for a Discount

Doctors and hospital staff generally bring home a good paycheck. However, the establishments tend to be cash-poor. Many would be willing to work with you if you are capable of paying something upfront rather than having to send the bill to insurance and then collections. Your odds of negotiating the cost are even better if you can pay in cash.

2. Set Up a Payment Plan

Whether they’re willing to work with you on the final price or not, you should be able to set up a payment plan. Talk with the billing department to discuss making smaller payments over an extended period. A payment plan may make your family’s medical expenses much more manageable.

3. Change Your Coverage If Necessary

If you consistently find yourself having to pay hefty amounts out of pocket, your current health insurance is probably not a good fit for you. You could negotiate with your insurance company for a better deal or switch policies. If they aren’t open to changes, consider switching to a more compatible insurance provider.

Look Out for Errors

It’s not unheard of to find an error in your medical billing. Do your due diligence and check everything over to avoid overpaying.

1. Request an Itemized Bill

The invoice you typically get in the mail from the doctor’s office isn’t broken down into your specific charges. You’ll want to request an itemized bill for everything outside of routine care. This will show exactly what you’ll be paying for, down to the smallest detail.

You should check your itemized bill for any strange charges or services you never even received. In some cases, extra charges are due to an unintentional oversight and other times you might be dealing with greedy practices.

2. Take Care of Any Discrepancies

You should immediately report any discrepancies you encounter in your close examination of the itemized bill. The hospital or office can run an audit on your account to check your claims.

Especially with more considerable expenses, be ready for some back and forth. Stand your ground if you know you’re in the right. In some circumstances, you may want to ask a professional medical bill reviewer to give you a second opinion.

Save on Medications

Medications can get quite expensive and are frequently a recurring cost. Any money you can save on prescriptions will significantly help your family’s finances.

1. Switch Medications

Talk to your doctor about cheaper alternatives to any medications you’re taking already or new prescriptions. Sometimes they’ll be able to recommend another drug that treats the same problems. However, your body might react differently to an entirely different prescription. A safer option would be to ask for the generic brand.

2. Check Prices at Pharmacies

Depending on your health insurance coverage, you may end up paying some or all of your prescription costs out of pocket. In that case, you may want to check the pricing at multiple pharmacies, especially for recurring or expensive medications.

Every establishment can set its prices for prescriptions within reason. However, saving a few dollars here and there adds up over the course of a year.

Prioritize a Healthy Lifestyle

The best way to save on your family’s medical expenses is to prioritize healthy living in the first place. Staying active, getting routine health care, and making smart nutritional decisions can keep your family feeling well and lower your need for doctor’s visits, medication, and procedures.

1. Use Prevention to Save Money

Getting regular checkups and seeing your doctor for what you may consider “minor” concerns are essential steps for keeping your family healthy. Without these routine visits, you may miss the chance to catch a medical issue until it worsens. Finding the little problems now will save you from shelling out for extensive procedures and potentially save your family.

2. Take Advantage of Free Services

We discussed earlier the importance of knowing your policy well. By doing so, you can take advantage of the many free services to help you stay on top of your overall wellness.

Many health insurance policies will cover certain specialists with no co-pay necessary for a certain number of appointments. You may be able to meet with a nutritionist, mental health professional, physical therapist, or many others free of charge at least a few times. Check your policy to see your family’s coverage.

Never Too Late to Start

Managing your family’s medical expenses may seem like a daunting task. Break it down into baby steps to help the process feel more manageable. The first thing you should focus on is getting reliable health insurance. You should also start allocating a portion of your monthly budget to save for regular or emergent medical bills. Deposit these funds into an emergency savings account or an HSA.

Aside from that, start building some of these helpful tips into your routine and establish new habits. Before you know it, you’ll be cutting your family’s medical spending and negotiating medical expenses like the boss you are.

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