Everyone’s health is unpredictable, and is liable to change on an annual basis. Here are some points that will help you decrease your expenses and increase your health insurance costs.

• Read the fine print: It is common practice for health insurance companies to make alterations to the rates and benefits of their plans every 12 months. You will usually receive notice of these changes in your mail, yet these letters usually end up in the bin. It is important to read and understand what these changes mean, so that you will not get a nasty shock.

• Do some leg work: If you feel that your company is increasing deductibles or other such charges too rapidly, then have a look at other companies’ plans. It is normal for companies to have new offers every year to entice dissatisfied customers who belong to rival companies.

• A new deductible awaits you: Deductibles are reset every year, usually on New Year’s Day. So, if your deductible has been exhausted, ensure that you have issued any end of year claims before January 1st, or else they will be added to the upcoming year’s deductible.

• Take away medical expenses: Once your medical expenses reach a certain level (7.5%) of your adjusted gross income, you are entering tax-deductible territory. Find out from the IRS or your own tax advisor to see if these expenses can be claimed as tax-deductible.

• Medicine savings: The first thing you should do is use the free illness prevention measures that are available. Then, see if you can find cheap medical supplies, and also ask your physician to switch to low-cost medications.

• Funding: If you have an HSA (Health Savings Account) as part of your plan, make sure that you have funded it to the highest amount by the year’s end in order to get the best in tax benefits. It can also be used for emergency funds.

• Improve your health: Have a look at your health plan to see if they offer discounts on health club membership, if it does, then you can save cash on gym fees.

• Have a physical exam: Having your annual physical keeps your insurance company bang up to date with your current fitness levels and health, and can be used to secure a better deal if you are in good shape. It also gives you a better idea of which benefits you need most on your plan.

• Review your plan: Have a long hard look at your current health and lifestyle. If it has altered dramatically in the past year, then you may be eligible for a better deal. If you fail to do this, it will likely be another 12 months before you get the chance again.

Choosing a Health Plan

There is no perfect health insurance plan, only one that is perfectly suited to your needs. With so many available plans, it is a frustrating and confusing experience trying to figure out which one to choose. Instead of standardized answers that may or may not help you, you need to be armed with the right questions, for more information visit the AHRQ.gov insurance consumer site.

There are a trio of factors that need to be analyzed, each with their own questions that need to be answered. You need to concentrate on these questions in order to figure out what health insurance plan is the right one for you and your loved ones.

Is the cost of care within my budget?

• What is the monthly cost?
• Is it necessary to include all my minor expenses, or should I just stick to the major ones?
• Is there a policy available that protects my children only that I can afford?
• What deductibles must be met before the insurance company reimburses me?
• What does the plan cover exactly, after I have paid the deductible?
• How much more expensive is it to visit a doctor that is outside the recommended physician list of the insurance company?
• How frequent are my visits to the doctor, and what does each visit cost me?

Are my health care needs covered by the services included in the plan?

• What physicians and hospitals are part of the plan?
• Is there a large enough variety of doctors available?
• What is the nearest location to me that provides my health care needs?
• Is permission required to see a medical specialist?
• What are the limits that I must pay in the event of a major illness?
• Does the plan cover the prescription drugs that I require?
• Is the cost of delivering a baby covered by the plan?

Are there positive reports by people who have used the same plan?