It's easy, will save you money and help you manage costs
It may seem odd at first to come up with a budget for something so important, and sometimes unpredictable, as your health.
But health care costs can stress families, impacting their health and wallets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 Americans reported putting off medical care in 2015 due to cost.
So coming up with a plan to manage health care spending makes good sense—no pun intended.
It doesn't have to be complicated, either. It really just takes six steps to create a plan, and you can use several online tools that can make the task even easier.
Let's get started.
Step 1: Add up your routine health costs
Do you have regular, monthly prescriptions? Do you expect to take sick kids to the doctor a few times a year?
Chances are you can count on a number of regular medical bills every year. If you've been a health plan member for at least a year, you can check your explanation of benefits (EOB) statements for the past 12 months to see what you spent on doctor visits and procedures last year. Just sign in to your Member dashboard and select EOB statements.
Also, call your pharmacy and get the amount you spent on prescriptions last year to get an idea of what next year will look like.
Step 2: Consider any new health costs
What are your health-related plans this year? Budgeting for anticipated health costs—like starting a family or repairing that old knee injury, for example—can help you prepare now and even save money when the time comes.
Sign in to your Member dashboard and select Cost estimator to get a sense of how much a procedure like surgery or childbirth will cost. The estimator takes into account your health benefits to provide an estimate tailored to you.
You can also use the cost estimator to compare charges across hospitals and clinics. Perhaps scheduling a surgery at an ambulatory surgical clinic would cost less than scheduling it at a hospital, for example.
Step 3: Set aside money for unexpected costs
Stuff happens. It's hard to predict if your child will break an arm or your summer vacation will include a side trip to urgent care.
But you can plan on having something unplanned happen during the course of the year. Take a look at your overall budget and put some money aside for those health care costs you never expected.
Step 4: Take advantage of money-saving tools
At this point, you should have a good estimate of how much you're likely to spend in the coming year. Now it's time for a plan to start regularly putting that money aside.
If you're on a high-deductible health plan (according to the IRS, this is a plan with at least a $1,640 deductible for an individual or at least a $2,600 deductible for a family), you're able to open a health savings account (HSA).
HSAs have tons of benefits. The first is that you don't have to pay any taxes on money you put in your HSA. This lowers the income that's taxed by the government.
Many people like HSAs because all of the money you put in it rolls over from year to year, and you can hold onto it even if you change health plans. HSA funds can be used for anything when you turn 65.
Many HSA accounts, such as those through our preferred partner for HSA accounts, HealthEquity®, come with a debit card that you can easily use to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. You can have your claims automatically sent to HealthEquity, which means less for you to manage.
There's a lot more to learn about HSAs. We suggest you start here.
Step 5: Get to know your health plan
Okay, you have a health care budget now. So why the sixth step?
Because we know health care costs are a big concern. And, one of the best ways to control your health care spending is to get to know and understand how your health plan works.
There are three main parts of your health plan to pay attention to: deductible, network and copay/coinsurance.
- Deductible: In short, your deductible is the amount of money you must pay out of pocket before your benefits kick in. Exceptions are preventive care—think well-child visits and your annual physical—that's covered 100% when you use an in-network provider (more on that below). But most other type of visits will be your responsibility until you meet your deductible.
- Network: Your network consists of the doctors, pharmacies, clinics and hospitals we've worked with on your behalf to negotiate discounts on services. When you stay in-network you benefit from those discounts, and once you meet your deductible, your plan pays more of the bill.
- Copay: Your plan may have a copay, which is a fixed amount you must pay for doctor visits and medical procedures—whether you've met the deductible or not. There's no copay or coinsurance for office visits that are covered by your preventive benefits —again, those are covered 100% when you stay in-network.
- Coinsurance: This is a percentage you must pay for doctor visits and medical procedures—also, whether you've met the deductible of not. As with copays, there is no coinsurance for office visits that are covered by your preventive benefits.
Step 6: Know your options
Take advantage of the less expensive health care options offered through your BridgeSpan plan, such as:
Telehealth. The next time you or your little one comes down with a minor illness, skip the hassle and schedule a virtual visit with MDLIVE. You can get the same care you would get in a doctor's office except over video chat or the phone. The average cost of an MDLIVE appointment with a doctor is $42 and with a therapist is $75, which is much less than the typical doctor appointment. Learn more about MDLIVE.
Advice24. Not sure if you or a loved one needs to see a doctor? Talk to an Advice24 nurse to get support for everyday health issues that might lead to unnecessary trips to the ER or urgent care. Read up on Advice24.
Urgent care. Emergency room visits can cost up to five times as much as a visit to urgent care. Cuts where the bleeding is controlled, sprains, minor infections, rashes and insect bites can all be treated for much less money at an in-network urgent care or convenient care clinic. Search for an in-network clinic now.
We know this is a lot of information. Just consider the relief that comes with having a health care spending budget in place–and the power you'll have to make decisions that are good for your health and bank account.
Don't hesitate to contact us if you have questions.