As self-employed individuals, we don’t have the luxury of an employer-sponsored retirement plan or splitting the health insurance costs with someone. There are many other benefits to being self-employed. Unfortunately, healthcare generally isn’t one of them.
To save money on those out-of-pocket health costs when you’re self-employed, here are seven tips to try before, during or even after you pick your insurance plan this open enrollment season.
1. Double-Check Your Bills
Take time to review your medical bills just like you do your restaurant bill. All prescription drugs and medical procedures have codes, and coding errors can sometimes cause costly mistakes. If you need a clarification about a charge, or have questions about your bill, call the billing department to get answers.
Sometimes you can even negotiate a lower medical bill payment if you pay in cash or set up a payment plan directly with the health provider. If you need additional help, connect with a patient billing advocate at the Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals or the Medical Bill Mediation website.
2. Be a Comparison Shopper
Verify the general prices for dental and non-covered medical procedures in your local area by using the FH Consumer Cost Health Insurance Cost Estimator online. This will help you anticipate and plan for out-of-pocket health costs. It can also aid you in considering another provider for a lower price based on the estimates you received.
The eHealth Insurance Marketplace will also give you detailed costs for health insurance coverage and provide you with unbiased options for insurance providers, allowing you to choose the best and most cost effective option.
3. Take Advantage of Free Preventive Screenings
Medicare and health insurance plans cover a wide range of immunizations and preventive screenings at in-network providers without charging you a co-pay, even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible yet. Take advantage of the free preventive screenings whenever you can.
For adults and various age groups, these free services usually include:
- Screenings for cervical, colon, lung and prostate cancers
- Diabetes type 2 testing
- High blood pressure
- Flu shots
- And more
4. Manage Rising Prescription Costs
Whether they’re brand-name or generic drugs, the cost of prescriptions are rising. While generic is still a cheaper alternative, there are a few other ways to save.
Try ordering your prescriptions in bulk by purchasing a 90-day versus a monthly supply. Look for the cheapest pharmacy option near you (i.e. Costco versus CVS). Then be sure to check your plan’s formulary list of medications to make sure your prescriptions are included. If not, talk to your doctor and see if there is another suitable option from the list.
5. Avoid a Large Tax Penalty Fee
If you don’t take action to apply for health insurance by the required deadline, you’ll be stuck with a tax penalty that will have to be paid with your tax return. In 2014, the tax penalty for not having health insurance coverage was 1% of your income, or $95 per adult (and $47.50 per child) in the family, whichever is greater.
For the 2015 tax year, that penalty is doubled, coming in at 2% of your income, or $325 per adult (and $162.50 per child) in the family, whichever is greater. In 2016, this figure will go up to 2.5%, so don’t procrastinate signing up for health insurance. You don’t want to be stuck with a large tax penalty at the end of the year.
6. Review Qualifying Life Events
Open enrollment for health insurance takes place from November 15, 2015, to February 15, 2016, to be covered for 2016. If you miss this deadline, you’ll have to apply for health insurance late and, as previously mentioned, likely have to pay a tax penalty.
There are, however, some life events that could qualify you for an extension and that will exclude you from paying this penalty. They include:
- Getting married
- Having a baby
- Moving to a new state
- Fluctuations in your income
- Getting divorced
- Death of a family member
- Paying a 2015 tax penalty
- Change in subsidy eligibility
7. Visit a Virtual Doctor Anytime, Anywhere
Telemedicine can help you and your family save time in the waiting room at a doctor’s appointment. In addition, it can help save you money by not forcing you to leave your home, pay for gas in your car and travel to a doctor’s office.
A large network of licensed doctors, nurses and pediatricians are virtually accessible through phone consultations and video conferencing to provide remote clinical care 24/7. To learn more about telemedicine, check out a company like Teladoc. This service is often added to discount health plans, so check with your provider to see if it’s included.
Getting health insurance is a smart investment when you’re self-employed. If you’re out of commission due to health reasons, your small business won’t be able to stay afloat for long. There’s no need to compound that further with medical bills and outstanding debts. Use these tips mentioned above to help cut healthcare-related costs while you’re self-employed.