Friday, October 4, 2013

How to Save Big on Healthcare

You have probably heard that big changes are coming to healthcare this month, but you might not be sure how it affects you. Here's what you need to know to save big on healthcare this year.

The Affordable Care Act caused state healthcare exchanges to open on October 1. A healthcare exchange is a kind of marketplace where insurance companies offer different plans to consumers.

However, just because these plans are available to you does not mean that you should automatically drop your employer's insurance. This is because, under your company's insurance, your employer is actually paying for some of your coverage. 

On the other hand, there are specific circumstances that may make shopping the healthcare exchange worth your while. If you fall into one or more of the categories listed below, you should consider shopping the exchange for a better deal on your healthcare coverage:

  • More than 9.5% of your household income goes to health insurance. Even if you have your company's healthcare insurance, you may be paying a significant portion of the cost. If so, you can drop your company plan and find assistance in the state healthcare exchange. 

  • Your employer pays for less than 60% of your healthcare costs. This is another indicator the government uses to identify inadequate coverage. It usually applies to high-deductible plans. 

  • You work for a company with less than 100 employees. The Affordable Care Act only requires companies with more than 100 employees to provide health insurance. If  your employer offers no or minimal coverage, you might be able to find a better plan at the exchange. 

  • You earn less than 400% of the poverty level. If you qualify for a government subsidy, shopping the healthcare exchange is a good idea. To qualify for a subsidy, you must earn between 133 and 400% of the poverty level. If you fall below the 133% mark, you qualify for Medicaid. If your income is above the cutoff point, you can still use the exchange to shop for health insurance. However, you will not receive a tax break. 

Whether or not you are enrolling in the healthcare exchange, there are other ways that you can save on your medical expenses. One way is to have a healthcare savings account. It could save you money on taxes as well as provide free money for medical bills. Here are THREE types of healthcare savings accounts to consider:

  • FSA - A Flexible Savings Account is set up through your employer and puts pretax dollars aside for medical expenses. FSAs are especially helpful for expenses that you know are coming, such as paying for children's braces. In order to be reimbursed, you must turn in your receipts. When using a FSA, it is important to budget carefully since the money must be spent within the calendar year or it returns to the company. 

  • HSA - The money in a Health Savings Account can be invested, so it could earn more for you than if it was just sitting in savings account. The earnings are rolled over every year, and you can withdraw all of it when you turn 65. These accounts are available through employers and banks, and many of them come with fees. To sign up, you have to a high-deductible insurance policy.You must also be careful not to use the funds for a non-qualified medical expense before you turn 65. If you do, the IRS will add an extra 20% to your federal taxes. 

  • HRA - The only type of account that employers completely fund is a Healthcare Reimbursement Account. The money in this account will stay there from year to year, and it covers nearly everything that a FSA or HSA would. While some require you to file a claim, others simply give you a check card to use for your health expenses. However, you do not keep the money once you leave that job, so keep that in mind if you are preparing to retire or change careers. 

With these tips in mind, you should be well prepared for the coming healthcare changes. If you have any other ideas on how to save money on medical expenses, please share them in the comments below!

Written by: Meg Thompson, Marketing Resources, at Family Services, Inc.