Depending on your situation, health insurance can take up a big chunk of the family budget. Our insurance premium eats up a third of our income! Even though it’s tempting to forego health insurance in exchange for more take home pay, health insurance is really a necessity.
Despite the high cost of health insurance, there may be ways to cut down on the costs, depending on your circumstances and how much risk you are comfortable taking.
Look Into a Private Plan
If you work for a small company or you are self-employed, buying an individual health insurance plan may save money over your employer’s group policy. If you’re buying your own insurance, contacting a reputable agent is a big help. My husband and I looked into private insurance several years ago, and our insurance agent was able to tell us which insurance companies were reputable, and which insurance companies were pretty much worthless in our state.
Prices will vary, depending on the type of plan you select. If you want insurance to pay for almost everything, your premiums will be high. If you are willing to pay a bigger co-pay with a higher deductible, you’ll pay less. If you are wiling to pay the brunt of your health care costs with a Health Savings Account, you’ll pay even less. Just make sure you can afford the deductible you select.
The downside to a private health insurance plan, of course, is that if you have a pre-existing condition, you likely won’t qualify for a private plan. However, your children may be able to qualify, and with the passage of the new Health Care Plan, insurance companies cannot deny children, based on pre-existing conditions.
You may be able to save money by putting your children on their own policy. Check your state laws to find out when open enrollment for children occurs in your state, usually twice a year. Then do some cost comparisons to see if you can save money by getting your children their own plan.
Use a Health Insurance Alternative
If you absolutely cannot afford health insurance, but would still like some type of coverage, you might look into health insurance alternatives like Samaritan Ministries International or Medi-Share. These are not insurance companies. Rather, they are a collective group of people who share medical costs. Each member pays a certain amount each month, and that money helps pay for the medical costs of others in the group.
You can probably save money going this direction, but there are downsides as well. There are strict guidelines to what is and is not covered, and there may be limits to how many expenses are covered in a calendar year. Regular insurance is a better bet, but this is an option if you don’t qualify.
See What Your State Has to Offer
Different states have different programs to help lower income people with health care costs. You may be surprised at what you qualify for, especially when it comes to children or pregnant women. In Oregon the income limits are pretty generous for these two groups of people.
Some states, such as Oregon, have subsidized health care available for children. You pay much less than you would for a standard policy.
There are several downsides to state insurance, however. First, you won’t qualify if you are over the set income limit (with the exception of some programs for children). Second, there might be a requirement that you be uninsured for a set time before you can qualify. In Oregon that ranges from 2-6 months. I’m not super-comfortable dropping my kids from insurance coverage for two months, just so they’ll qualify.
Finally, sometimes it can be hard to find a doctor to take a state plan. And insurance coverage isn’t worth much, if you can’t find someone to treat you.
Though it can be difficult to save money on health insurance, it is possible. There can be risks involved, and only you can decide what is best for your situation.
Photo by Jasleen Kaur.