Save on health insurance
You've probably seen your health insurance premiums go up. Family health insurance costs for those with employer-sponsored coverage increased by nine percent in 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Maybe it's time for a health insurance checkup. Take a look at what you're paying for coverage, think about which benefits you value most, and read these five tips designed to help you save money on health insurance:
Review your options annually.
Whether you get your health insurance coverage through an employer or purchase an individual policy, review your options at least once per year. Health insurance companies are bringing new, innovative options to the market all the time. Just remember that it's still possible to be declined for an individual policy due to a pre-existing medical condition. Don't cancel your current plan until you're officially approved for a new one.
Cultivate healthy habits.
A recent study conducted by eHealth Inc. found that of over 200,000 consumers with brand-name health plans, smokers paid 14 percent more on average for their monthly premiums compared to non-smokers. Policyholders with a body mass index in the "obese" range paid more than 22 percent more than those in the "normal" BMI range — an average annual savings of $444.
Try a plan with a higher deductible.
If you're relatively healthy and rarely see the doctor, consider switching to a plan with a higher annual deductible and a lower monthly premium. Some preventive care services will still be available to you with no out-of-pocket cost. Just be sure that you can afford to pay the full deductible in case of a serious injury or illness.
Consider splitting up the family plan.
There's no law that says you need to have the whole family on a single health insurance plan. You may be able to save on your monthly health insurance costs by putting your dependents on a plan of their own.
Mix and match additional benefits.
Even if your employer provides dental and vision benefits, it may be worthwhile looking into these plans on your own — whether for your whole family, or just for dependents.
For more health insurance shopping tips, visit www.eHealthInsurance.com and request a free copy of its book "Individual Health Insurance For Dummies — Health Care Reform Special Edition."
North Carolina resources
NC Health Info is a free online service that includes links to organizations with information to help consumers understand their health insurance options: www.nchealthinfo.org.
North Carolina Health Choice (NCHC) is a free or reduced-price comprehensive health care program for children. NCHC may be helpful if your family makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford health insurance premiums. Call the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services at (800) 662-7030 or visit www.ncdhhs.gov/dma/healthchoice.
Health Insurance Smart NC (through the N.C. Department of Insurance) is a free service that helps consumers understand their rights, identify enrollment opportunities and file complaints and appeals with health insurance companies. (877) 885-0231 or www.ncdoi.com/Smart.