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Plan to pay more for health care next year
WASHINGTON (7/01/14)--Consumers can expect to spend more on health care next year, though the rise won't reach the double-digit increases that were common before the financial crisis (NPR.org June 24).
 
Consumers also can expect to shoulder a greater portion of their health care costs in the future, as nearly half of employers are considering making high-deductible health plans the sole option for their employees in the next three years, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCooper's Health Research Institute (The New York Times June 24). A deductible is the amount patients pay out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in.
 
If health plans stay the same, the report predicts spending to rise 6.8% in 2015, compared with a projected 6.5% uptick this year.
 
But because employers expect consumers to seek more health care, the report predicts employers will adjust health plans accordingly--either by raising deductibles or narrowing the network of doctors. If that happens, the predicted 2015 increase in health care spending drops to 4.8% from 6.8%, due to employees seeking fewer services than planned to avoid increased costs.
 
Already, 20% of employers offer only high-deductible health care plans, which research shows dampen how much employees spend on health care in the short-term.
 
If you have a high-deductible plan or lack sufficient coverage, The New York Times article suggests some ways to save on health care costs:
  • Establish a primary care physician. Primary care is less expensive than seeing a specialist. Subsequent visits often are less expensive than your first visit, even if it's for a separate issue, so seeing only one doctor saves money. Also, any health care plan should offer a free annual checkup.
     
  • Ask about less expensive treatment options. More doctors are open to discussing the cost of treatments, according to a recent opinion article in The New England Journal of Medicine. Don't be afraid to discuss your options and how much they cost with your primary physician.
     
  • Shop around on lab tests. Just as you can take a prescription to your preferred pharmacy, you can request your doctor's written order for a test and go to a laboratory of your choice. Hospital-based labs tend to be more expensive than national chains, and free-standing imaging centers may save you money on X-rays and CT scans.
For related information, read "Practical Ways to Save Money" and "Everybody's Money Matters: Benefits of Health Savings Accounts" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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