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Nine Ways to Save on Health Insurance Costs

Finding affordable healthcare coverage is no easy operation, and the prognosis of lower costs in the foreseeable future is grim. Healthcare charges are on the rise, and even though wages are stagnant, insurance costs are expected to jump by a whopping 10% by the end of 2008.

But there are things you can do to save on health insurance costs without sacrificing quality care. Here's a look at nine possible "antidotes" to your high cost of health insurance:

Shop around for health insurance. The Internet makes it easy to compare insurance companies and get quotes, but it still takes a commitment of time and effort. Look at price and benefits and be aware of pre-existing condition exclusions insurance companies may have. Once you have a quote in hand, contact the agent directly. The agent will most likely work with you to find ways to bring down your monthly costs by doing things like excluding certain things from your plan (not all companies offer exclusions).

Raise your deductible. Deductibles can range anywhere from $5 to $10,000. The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly payment will be; but carrying a higher deductible means you'll be paying a big part of your everyday medical care costs out-of-pocket. If you're in relatively good health and only go to the doctor once or twice a year, a higher deductible is worth considering.

Increase your physician co-pay amount. By increasing your co-pay, you can reduce your premium by as much as 25%, which is worth it if you're seeing a doctor more than twice a year. But determine what the co-pay actually covers does it cover diagnostic tests like lab and x-ray, or does it just cover the doctor visit?

Make the most of dual coverage by doing the math to determine if coverage for your family would be more cost effective under one plan, or if you should split coverage between both plans.

Look into a Health Savings Account-type plan. Health Savings Account-type plans are made up of High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) and a Health Savings Account (HSA), and allow you to put in pretax contributions that grow tax-free and can be rolled over from year to year. Your deductible can then be paid with funds from your HSA account, or you can pay your deductible out-of-pocket and save the money in your account. One word of caution: if you have significant health care expenses, this strategy is not a good choice. Talk with an agent to get specific information on choices available to you.

See if your employer offers a flexible spending arrangement (FSA), a tax-advantaged account that allows an employee to set aside a portion of his or her earnings to pay for qualified expenses. The advantage is that money deducted from your check into an FSA is not subject to payroll taxes but the disadvantage is that funds cannot be rolled over and must be spent on qualified health care related expenses, so if you don't use the money you'll lose it.

Consider buying prescriptions through a mail order pharmacy.

Get healthy. Losing weight or quitting smoking will not only mean a reduction in your trips to the doctor's office, it means a reduction in your health insurance costs. Many companies offer financial incentives to employees participating in wellness programs in the form of cash or contributions put towards health care and insurance costs. Check with your employer to see if this is an option for you.

Check for state-run programs that offer free or low-cost insurance. You can answer a five question survey at the Foundation for Health Coverage Education to determine your eligibility for different policies.

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