Health Care Is Expensive: 6 Ways to Save on Medical Care in 2023
Saving money is a popular New Year’s resolution.
If you’re looking for ways to trim your budget in 2023, medical care is a good place to start.
Health care spending in the U.S. hit $4.1 trillion — or $12,530 per person — in 2020 (the most recent data available), according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
6 Ways to Save on Medical Care in 2023
Here are six ways to save money on medical care in 2023 so you can keep your body, mind and wallet healthy in the new year.
- Get health insurance.
- Or review your current health insurance.
- If you’re on Medicare, review your options during open enrollment.
- Find free and low-cost mental health services.
- Negotiate your medical bills.
- Check your credit report.
1. Get Health Insurance
Forgoing health insurance may seem like an easy way to save money each month. If you’re young and healthy, shelling out monthly premiums for a plan you barely use can seem like a waste of money.
But that short-term decision to save money could be a costly one if you have a catastrophic health event.
Open enrollment for plans on HealthCare.gov — the health insurance marketplace where you can shop and sign up for affordable plans — is going on now through Jan. 15.
The Health Insurance Marketplace was created as part of the Affordable Care Act, and is aimed at people who can’t get coverage through their employer. This can include part-time employees, freelancers, gig workers, college students, people who are self-employed or unemployed and early retirees under 65, among others.
Most of the 14.5 million people enrolled in insurance through the public marketplace receive subsidies to help lower their premiums.
This can help you save money on your health insurance coverage in 2023.
Here’s how those subsidies break down:
- If you make up to 150% of the federal poverty level ($20,385 for an individual and $27,465 for a couple): You can get an ACA plan with no monthly premium.
- If you earn up to 400% of the federal poverty level ($54,360 for an individual and $73,240 for a couple): You can qualify for sliding-scale subsidies to lower your premiums.
- If you earn more than 400% of the federal poverty level: You may still qualify for savings on a 2023 marketplace insurance plan. You won’t pay more than 8.5% of your household income toward premiums.
Ready to get started? Here’s how to sign up for 2023 Affordable Care Act Health Insurance.
2. Or Review Your Current Health Insurance
Most companies hold open enrollment events at the end of the year. You might be tempted to re-enroll in your current coverage, but exploring all your options is the best way to save money.
Among the more cost-effective options for employers is a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). These plans offer low monthly premiums but require you to spend more out-of-pocket before the insurance company starts paying its share.
Because these plans cost less for the employer, many companies try to incentivize employees to sign up by offering pre-tax contributions to an HSA, a savings account that can only be used for health expenses.
High-deductible health plans make sense if you’re trying to save money and you’re in good health. An annual exam and preventive services are always covered by HDHPs due to provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
Be realistic about your health insurance needs. Yes, your monthly premium will be lower with a HDHP but you may have a deductible of $3,000 or more.
If you have a chronic condition or ongoing medical issues, it may be cheaper in the long run to pay a higher premium each month for your coverage if the plan comes with a low deductible.
3. If You’re On Medicare, Review Your Options During Open Enrollment
Each year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, people who are already enrolled in Medicare get a chance to review and make changes to their plans during open enrollment.
If you’re happy with your Medicare coverage, you don’t need to do anything.
But reviewing your current health plan, especially with a trained nonprofit counselor, is a good way to ensure you’re not overspending.
The State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP, is a national network of trained volunteers who provide one-on-one assistance, counseling and education to Medicare beneficiaries and their families.
Unlike insurance agents, SHIP counselors will never try to sell you something. Instead, they can help you review your current coverage. If your Part D or Medicare Advantage plan no longer meets your needs, a counselor can help you pick a new plan using the Medicare Plan Finder tool.
They can even see if you qualify for a Medicare Savings Program or other assistance based on your income.
You can find your SHIP by using the online SHIP Regional Locator tool. Or you can call the national network hotline at 1-877-839-2675.
4. Find Free and Low-Cost Mental Health Services
Your health insurance plan may include mental health benefits but there’s plenty of other ways to save on counseling and therapy — whether you have insurance or not.
The NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-support service that provides mental health information, resource referrals and guidance.
You can contact a counselor at NAMI (short for the National Association of Mental Illnesses) multiple ways, including by phone (800-950-6264), text, online chat and email.
The helpline itself doesn’t offer counseling, but it can help you connect with low-cost or free programs in your area.
Another option is employee assistance programs. More companies are offering these programs, which can cover some free counseling sessions in addition to your health insurance benefits for mental health care.
Check with your HR department to see if your organization offers this kind of benefit and ask how you can take advantage of it.
5. Negotiate Your Medical Bills
If you’re facing an expensive medical bill, you may be able to negotiate it to a lower price.
You can negotiate medical bills with both the provider and your insurance company. You can go about this a few different ways.
You might be able to get a big chunk of your bill erased by calling up the doctor or hospital and offering to pay a portion of the total up front in cash.
Let’s say you receive a hospital bill for $1,000. You can call the hospital’s billing department and make them an offer.
“I don’t have $1,000, but I can give you $250 today if we can settle this bill. Can you work with me on this?” is one way to approach negotiations.
Another option is calling your provider and asking to set up a repayment plan. This may not reduce your total, but spreading out payments can soften the blow to your budget. (Just make sure they don’t charge you interest.) Creating a payment plan can also help prevent your medical bill from ending up in collections.
Here’s a step-by step guide on how to negotiate medical bills to save yourself some money in 2023.
6. Your Medical Bill Might Get Wiped From Your Credit Report in 2023
During the first half of 2023, medical bills of $500 or less that are in collections will be removed from credit reports.
That’s great news for the millions of Americans with lingering medical debt.
One reason for the change: Medical debt isn’t a good predictor of whether you’ll be able to repay other types of debt.
You’ll still owe the entire medical bill, even if it disappears from your credit report after you pay it down to $500 or less.
Still, the new rule could really boost your credit score. Having an account that’s sent to a collections agency can cause your score to drop by 100 points or more. Getting it cleared from your credit reports could help you qualify for a better car loan or better terms on a mortgage.
That’s something to look forward to in 2023.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.