Moms: Don't make these expensive health insurance mistakes

As a mom one thing is guaranteed: your family will make several trips to the doctor. Between well visits, sick visits, and the inevitable broken bone, health care costs can really add up if you’re not careful about how you seek medical care for your family.

However, some expensive mistakes can easily be avoided. So… what are a few of the most common mistakes to avoid?

  1. Automatically sticking everyone on the work group plan. Employer-provided group plans used to be the best thing around; however, this isn’t so black and white anymore. Many companies have been scaling back on health insurance benefits and one way they’ve frequently done this is by cutting back contributions for family coverage. Also, most group plans do not take into account the number of children in a family so the “+ family” cost may be outlandish unless you have several kids. (Many individual plans only cost ~$150/month per child.) This year, before just sticking everyone on the company group plan, check to see if it makes more sense to find an individual plan for the spouse and/or children in your family.
  1. Going out of network. Sure, you know how important it is to go to a doctor that is in network. But what happens if you accidentally go out of network? You can end up with hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical bills. If your doctor refers you to a specialist make sure that you confirm they are in your network. Also, when arranging surgery at an in-network hospital, confirm with your doctor that everyone involved in the surgery and care will be in-network or find out if they can arrange in-network providers. Patients are often surprised after surgery to receive a bill because the anesthesiologist or lab was out of network—which happens sometimes because providers are not required to belong to the same networks as hospitals. And remember: out of network costs do not go towards your annual out of pocket maximum or deductible so you really are just throwing away money when you go out of network.
  1. Not utilizing a Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA is money set aside to pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance. You can use an HSA to pay for deductibles, copays, vision and dental care. Using an HSA will reduce your taxes as it lowers your taxable income. For example, let’s say your taxable income is $70,000 a year and taxes claim 30% or $21,000. If you put aside $4,000 in an HSA your taxable income will be $66,000 and your taxes owed will be $19,800 saving $1,200! Unlike a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) there is no time limit with an HSA and money put into an HSA can be rolled over into the next year - even into retirement!
  1. Not shopping around. Open enrollment for individual health plans begins on November 1, 2015. This year, before allowing your plan to auto renew, shop around to make sure your plan is still the best deal for you and your family.
  1. Not using generic drugs or not comparing prices before filling a prescription. There are a few easy ways to save money on prescriptions:
    • First, consider asking your doctor to write a prescription for generic drugs--generic drugs can save you hundreds of dollars a year over brand name drugs.
    • Second, before filling a prescription, check prices at different pharmacies. We've found goodrx.com to be an excellent way to easily scan prescription prices in your area.
    • Finally, when shopping for insurance plans, make sure you compare the formularies (prescription coverage) for each plan to review price information for prescriptions you take regularly. Sometimes spending a higher monthly premium ($120 extra to have a Silver plan instead of Bronze) to achieve a lower copay ($10) is unnecessary if you can get your generic filled for less ($8).

Interested in comparing health plans but not sure how to start? Check out Take Command Health. In just a few minutes you can compare hundreds of plans and even keep your favorite doctors. It’s quick, easy, and best of all, free to use!

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