Two insurance plans or one?
What do you do if both you and your spouse have health coverage at work? It’s decision time, because doubling up may not be cost effective. Employees often pay a portion of the premium, and any charges the secondary insurance picks up may not be sufficient to offset the additional premium.
You may cover your whole family with one spouse’s plan, or you may opt to each have your own plan. If all things are equal, then choose the one that has the lowest premiums and deductibles.
But often, plans will differ based on the coverage provided. Look very carefully through the plans to determine which one offers the best options for covering the medical services you and your family use most often. It may be a tedious process, but it’s worth doing before committing to health coverage for the year—even if you’re worried you’ll have to switch doctors and networks when you move to new coverage.
Consider the deductible
If you’re healthy, young and not taking much time off of work to visit the doctor, a high-deductible health (HDHP) plan may make the most sense. In these plans, patients pay out of pocket for most procedures or appointments until they meet the deductible. After that, the plans pick up 100% of most costs. (Some plans have tiers: For example, once you've paid a certain amount, the plan may pick up 80% of costs until you hit an annual out-of-pocket maximum; after that, the plan pays 100%.) In exchange, premiums are generally lower than traditional health insurance plans.
Bear in mind that, in the event of a major health problem, you might be looking at a very large bill to pay all at once. Compare that with a traditional plan, which lets you spread out your health care expenses throughout the year.
Also, remember that basic health insurance is just one type of coverage you might need to maintain good health. Because there's a strong connection between oral health and general health, a dental policy that pays for cleanings and basic dental care is a good idea.
Take advantage of savings
High-deductible plans are often paired with health savings accounts (HSAs), which let you and your employer contribute up to $3,600 for singles and $7,200 for families, pre-tax. Withdrawals for medical care are tax-free, and there’s an investment option for the money as well.
If you are relatively healthy, using the investing option can help you save for health care in retirement. Any money you don’t use on health care now can continue to grow. It can grow even more if you have other funds you can use to pay for your health care expenses now.