2012 Health care costs

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According to an article today (8/25/2011) on Kiplinger.com,  the National Business Group on Health issued a report that shows we can expect to pay more for health insurance in 2012.  The increases are expected in all areas – premiums, co-pays and deductibles.  Additionally, 17% of employers plan to offer only High Deductible Health Plans and Health Savings Accounts (HDHP/HSA) .  These health plans require the employee to pay deductibles  of at least $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for families, possibly more before the insurance pays anything.  The article also points out that more than half the companies surveyed plan to increase the portion of insurance that their employees pay.  This is a double-whammy on your pocketbook – not only is the underlying cost increasing, your share is also going up.

There are several things we can do to minimize the impact of these increases.  First, if you have already met your deductible for 2011, you may want to get any needed medical treatments this plan year that you have been putting off.

Second, make sure you understand the total costs of your benefits and that you select the right plan for you and your family.  For example, while you may be more comfortable with a traditional PPO plan, you may be able to save a significant amount of money by using an HMO if your current doctors are “in network”.  Similarly,  you may be able to save money by using an HDHP/HSA plan if your employer makes a contribution to the HSA account for you.  In 2010, I analyzed benefit costs for several clients and found that even in the worst case scenarios, they saved a little money by using the HDHP/HSA plan.  If they stayed healthy, they could save hundreds of dollars.

Third, understand your benefits and how they work.  Do you need to pay deductibles for medicine used for chronic conditions like high blood pressure?  Did your current medication lose it’s patent protection?  Is a similar, but cheaper name brand drug available for your ailment?  Can you get the flu shot at work for free?

With health insurance costs going up and wages barley keeping pace with inflation, it is more important than ever to take control of your health and pocketbook.

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