With the tax-filing deadline behind you, chances are you're only beginning to recover from thoughts of credits, deductions, withholdings and the like. What you may not realize is how your 2012 tax return could impact your healthcare costs next year.
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According to a recent article by MarketWatch, eligibility for federal subsidies to purchase insurance beginning in 2014 will be based on your adjusted gross income from this year’s return. This number will also determine the amount you pay as a penalty should you opt out of coverage.
During our annual health insurance renewal meeting, our broker shared some of this surprising information as well as tips for saving on medical costs. Here are some of his insights along with other tips from my experience.
1. Get Quotes for Care
While it may not be news that hospitals charge more than other facilities, the cost difference of a simple exam may still surprise you. The broker shared a story about a client who needed an MRI for his neck and was told by the hospital it would cost $2,400. The imaging center in town quoted him $600, and another facility in a neighboring area could do the procedure for $350. This $2,000 price difference is significant regardless of your income, and highlights the necessity of getting bids on medical procedures.
2. Consider Outpatient Surgery
Ambulatory surgery centers are growing in popularity as affordable alternatives to hospitals for basic procedures. Not only will your surgery cost about 30 percent less than if you had the procedure performed at a hospital, but you'll get in and out quicker, too. Minor or intermediate procedures -- like a colonoscopy or knee surgery -- are better done at ambulatory surgery centers because they can be performed quickly and recovery can occur at home.
3. Ask a Nurse
Most of the top health insurance providers like Anthem and UnitedHealthcare offer 24-7 nurse lines for toll-free calling. Nurses can provide answers to general health questions and help you decide if a visit to the doctor’s office is necessary. Checking in with a professional before you pay a copay will dramatically reduce your medical costs if you find yourself at the clinic for every sniffle.
4. Remember Urgent Care
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When you twist your ankle or are so congested you can hardly breathe, you might check into the emergency room for relief. Though you should never delay treatment when you feel you really need it, remember the emergency room is for just that -- emergencies. Urgent care facilities are designed to accommodate patients with an immediate need that’s not life-threatening, and will treat you for much less. For example, the average cost of diagnosing and treating strep throat at the emergency room is $531, whereas an urgent care facility would charge around $111. Refer to Debt.org for more of these comparisons.
5. Use Insurance for Frames