You and your family probably visit doctors for annual check-ups, routine examinations, or routine medical care. To save money on these, choose health care options that cover preventive care and wellness visits. For example, consider choosing medical plan options that offer in-network services, such as a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) or a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP). While your plan may also offer you the opportunity to go outside the network, in-network services usually cover either part or all of preventive care visits, and often have lower deductibles and coinsurance limits. This will help reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
Many insurance companies also have web-based tools and education to help you make informed decisions about your health care—decisions that could save you money in the long run.
If you're married and eligible for medical coverage on your spouse's plan, do a cost comparison of the plans available to you to determine which plan best meets your needs. Your decision will be influenced, in part, by how each company's medical plan handles coordination of benefits, but duplication of benefits is usually not worth the extra cost. If you decide to waive your medical plan coverage at work because you are covered under your spouse's plan, and your company offers a flexible benefits program, your company may offer you a cash credit towards your other benefit options. You could even end up with extra cash in your pocket if you don't use the credit on other benefits. Keep in mind that you may have to prove that you have medical coverage elsewhere before you can opt out of your company's plan.
If your medical plan requires pre-certification, always remember to call your insurance company to have hospital admissions or surgical procedures pre-approved (as required)—except in emergency situations when you are usually able to call your plan within 48 hours after admission. If you don't call, a portion of your medical expenses may not be covered. Make sure you review your medical plan's requirements.
If you are pregnant, check with your employer to see if a pregnancy help program is offered. Staying healthy during pregnancy will pay off for both you and your baby well after delivery.
If your employer offers a dental plan, the cost of the annual premiums usually equals the cost of annual preventive care visits alone, assuming you visit your dentist twice a year. A good dental plan will cover the cost of preventive care services. So if you need any dental work over and above basic preventive care, you'll save money by being in the dental plan. If you have a choice of dental plan options, select the plan option which will most likely cover your needs. Don't go for the more expensive plan if you anticipate that your dental needs will be minimal.
If your employer offers a vision/hearing plan, make sure to read the fine print before you enroll. If the plan covers new frames or lenses only when you have a change in your prescription, but you like to change your frames more often than that, consider other options, such as health care reimbursement accounts if offered by your employer, or vision care plans that offer you discounts. You can also use a health care reimbursement account in conjunction with a discount vision care plan for added savings.
Some company plans offer a mail order drug program for individuals on maintenance or long-term medication. Buying prescriptions in large quantities (usually a 90-day supply) can provide you discounts over buying smaller amounts at your local pharmacy. Ask your doctor to write your prescription for a 90-day supply rather than for a 30-day supply with two refills. When using mail order services, your prescription will likely be filled with a generic drug unless your doctor specifically requests a name brand drug. If you don't require maintenance drugs, always use a network pharmacy, if provided through your company's medical plan, to receive a discount.
If your employer has day care facilities, or has arrangements to offer you a discount at one or more day care facilities, compare the cost and quality of care with other child or day care providers in your area. Determine which facility provides your children with the best care at the most affordable price.
To help you save on the after-tax costs of health care and/or dependent care, your employer may offer a health care reimbursement account and a dependent day care reimbursement account. The money that you deposit into these accounts on a pre-tax basis can be used to pay for non-reimbursed medical expenses, like your deductibles and coinsurance, or the expenses for day care.
IMPORTANT NOTE: With a reimbursement account, be careful to estimate your future health care and/or dependent care costs accurately. You will lose money that you deposit into the account if you don't use it for health care or dependent care. So, if you feel comfortable estimating your additional out-of-pocket medical and day care expenses, you should arrange to begin contributing or increase contributions to a reimbursement account. It means money in your pocket rather than in Uncle Sam's!
Some companies have a matching gifts program. It is a good way for you to possibly double your contributions to a charitable organization. For example, your employer may match your contribution dollar for dollar, up to a specified limit (usually no more than $10,000). Besides getting a tax deduction for your own charitable dollars, you're maximizing your overall gift to a worthwhile cause. Check with your local human resources representative at your company.
Your company may also offer other benefits that could help you save money. Ask your local human resources representative if your company has any of the following programs: