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
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