I’ve been on my share of hospital stay. In the past three years, I had 2 outpatient surgeries and gave birth to wonderful baby boy. Fortunately, the surgeries were simple and I had a normal delivery, even though I gave birth prematurely, just after 28 weeks.
Insurance to the rescue
I’m very grateful that my employer provides insurance and my out of pocket was minimal. The claims that were filed were astronomical. I don’t think I can afford the kind of care I received without it. There are still some out of pocket expense, even with insurance. Here are some things that I learned which save me some money over the course of the year.
1. Research the insurance provided by your employer during open period
This is the key. Make sure you pay attention every year to open period and research the changes to your policy. Make sure that it is still the optimal choice for your life. For example, I fell on my bicycle and broke my ACL during the first week of work. I picked the insurance that will minimize my out of pocket expense. I considered both the monthly share of the premium and the maximum deductible. I also signed up for Flexible Spending Account.
2. Sign up for tax deductible health spending accounts
There are 2 types of tax deductible spending accounts, the Health Savings Account (HSA) and the Flexible Savings Account (FSA). You can only signed up for one for each plan period. If you sign up for HSA, you will also have a higher deductible amount. FSA, on the other hand have a lower deductible. I signed up for FSA during the year that I had an ACL reconstruction and this year, when I gave birth. My maximum deductible was $2k for these years. I then signed up for FSA for the maximum during that plan period. By using FSA, I saved taxes and I was able to use it right away. During the year when I don’t have a plan medical expense, I signed up for HSA, which also means a higher deductible amount. For my plan, this means $3k of maximum deductible. I maxed out by HSA during that year. Fortunately, I didn’t have any big medical expense during the year. I only had a preventative visits which were free.
3. Research doctors for in network coverage
When I had my ACL reconstruction, I researched doctors that were part of my network. Fortunately, he is also affiliated with the hospital where my primary doctor practices. He has a private practice, focusing on orthopedics. Similar when I gave birth, I chose an OB and a hospital that is part of my network.
4. Ask if the providers / hospital provide discounts
Providers and hospitals will typically provide discounts if you pay your out of pocket within 30 days. I received a 5% discount on my bill by paying within 30 days.
5. Use your credit cards and earn rewards and points
I signed up for new rewards cards to pay for medical bills. I was able to maximize the needed amount to received the sign up bonus. If you strategize, you can end up getting money back as a cash back or rewards through airline mileage.
6. Time appointments / planned surgeries on a single plan period
This will require some planning. For me, I will always have my annual physical exam during the end of the plan year or during open period. This will give me a chance to discuss with my doctor any concerns I have. I don’t advocate waiting to do this once a year if you have concerns that are really alarming. For me, I had my breast examine every year. For one year, I felt a small lump. I then had an ultra sound, a biopsy and a surgery for the next plan year. The ultrasound itself covered most of my dedcutible. This year also happened to be the year I had my ACL reconstruction.