In the US the cost of health insurance is steadily rising, often to such an extent that US citizens are forced to seek an alternative to traditional health insurance plans. Fortunately, there are a number of viable alternatives that can cut costs, sometimes quite significantly, although it can be a challenge to decide which one is best suited to your particular circumstances.
One popular option when looking for alternative healthcare coverage is to open a Health Savings Account (HSA). This type of account presents a tax-advantaged way of covering the majority of medical expenses including visits to the doctor, and medication. In common with Primary Care Monthly Fee Programs, which are discussed later, HSAs are most often combined with high-deductible insurance coverage for serious illness or injury. Many employers offer HSAs, although you can set one up individually. All payments made into an HSA are pre-tax deductions, plus there is no tax penalty incurred for withdrawing or spending money from the account as long as the funds are used to pay for medical expenses. However, there are maximum limits imposed by the IRS for contributions made to an HAS account; in 2016 these limits were set at $3,350 for an individual and $6,750 for a family.
As mentioned above, another alternative to traditional health insurance is Primary Care Membership. In common with, for example, gym membership, physicians offer their services for a flat monthly fee. In return for this monthly fee both families, or individuals, receive pretty much unlimited general medical care which includes doctor’s visits and routine tests. However, this type of plan does not include treatment for major injury, surgery, or hospital stays. Fortunately, Primary Care membership can be supplemented with a high-deductible, relatively low-premium health policy solely designed to cover serious illness or injury.
A Medical Cost-Sharing Program is set up so that members pay a monthly premium, which goes into a pool of resources that is used to pay for each member’s medical costs as and when they arise. One particular example of this type of scheme is the Medi-Share program. Instead of a deductible there is an incident fee for each medical event that the member must cover out if their own pocket. After this, the remainder of the medical costs associated with this particular event will be paid for by the accumulated fees paid by other members of the program.
A Medical Cost-Sharing Program offers a cost saving as these types of programs usually negotiate a discount with medical care facilities and primary care physicians, resulting in the monthly fees being lower than those you would pay for traditional health insurance whilst still receiving the same benefits. Many of these types of schemes are run by faith-based organisations so some costs, such as birth control and abortion, may be excluded. However, other than this these programs provide everything you would expect from a traditional health insurance policy at a lower price.
If you prefer to pay in cash for your medical treatment, and are happy to pay the tax penalty incurred under the Affordable Care Act for not having health insurance then a Medical Discount Card could be a viable option. Discount cards are available for prescriptions, physician or hospital services, or sometimes both. Some card providers ask for a one-off membership fee, some ask for a membership fee in addition to a small monthly fee, and others provide the cards entirely free of charge. The amount of discount offered by the cards can be very generous; often up to around 80%, although there are restrictions placed upon where the cards can be used. These restrictions are similar to those placed by health care plans that require the use of doctors within a specific network of healthcare providers. A particular advantage of a Medical Services Discount Card is that they can be used for dental services; traditional health insurance plans most often provide dental cover that has a number of restrictions, or is very expensive. They can also be used in conjunction with high-deductible, serious illness or injury insurance cover.
Finally, if you are young and in good health a High-Deductible Policy could be the ideal solution. This type of policy is designed to pay out if you experience an unexpected major injury or illness, so is a good option for those who do not expect to experience a number of different medical problems throughout the year. This type of policy keeps costs to a minimum whilst giving you peace of mind that if you are in need of medical treatment for a serious illness or injury your costs will be covered.
Whilst health insurance can be expensive there are steps that you can take to cut costs whilst still receiving access to medical treatment as and when you need it. By researching your options thoroughly you can find a program that best suits your needs and requirements whilst keeping within your budget. A traditional health insurance policy does offer many benefits, but you can certainly save money by considering alternative ways of paying for any medical treatment that you may require.