Skip to main content

A big change is coming to health care and it’s not for the better.

Health care premiums will increase significantly next year for many Americans. According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, employers offering coverage will likely see a 9%  cost increase, while employee costs may rise by double digits.

Customers can expect higher out-of-pocket costs and stricter policies for dependent coverage, among other changes.

There are several reasons for rising costs, all related to the economy.  USA Today reports, “Costs will rise in part because workers worried about losing their jobs are using their health care more while they still have it,” and also from rising unemployment, which is “driving up medical costs.”

Unfortunately, even if the health care reform bill passes this year, it is unlikely to have any impact on costs for the next year. So in the meantime, here are three tips to get more bang for your buck next year since you’ll be spending more anyway.

TheStreet Recommends

1. Figure Out Which Plan Suits You Best
The New York Times reports more employers are pushing high-deductible coverage now because it moves more of the cost burden onto employees, reducing employer costs by as much as 20%. This plan certainly has its perks – it’s usually paired with a health savings account, which is a great way to prepare for retirement, and once you meet your deductible, you can be covered for up to 100% of your medical costs.  But in the meantime, you pay more for your doctor’s visits. That may be ideal for the person who has a once-a-year checkup, but if you love to see your doctor, consider a different plan.

2. Make Better Decisions
Just because you are covered doesn’t mean you always have to run to the doctor. A number of Web sites have popped up in the past few years to help people diagnose themselves. But I can tell you from first-hand experience that you run the risk of misreading your own symptoms and mistaking a common cold for cancer. That’s why I’m excited about Keas, a new online health tool created by the former head of the Google Health team. Keas stores your personal health information and uses it to issue personalized health advice and reminders. Granted, it can’t perform surgery on you (yet), but programs like Keas can badger you into being healthier so you’re less likely to need it.

3. Supplemental Care
Health centers and holistic medicine provide a good alternative if you lose your coverage, or even if you’re just wary of paying to see a doctor too often. You can find a list of federally-funded health centers here, which will see you even without coverage. And check out MainStreet’s previous coverage of natural medicines.

But of course, for a serious condition, nothing replaces a fully-equipped hospital.  If you are uninsured, be sure to mention that to your doctor in advance. Unlike insurance companies, doctors can be sympathetic and may offer you a reduced rate. And don’t forget to talk with the pharmacists at your local drug store. They may not be able to prescribe you medications, but they can recommend other options. Consider it a free consultation.

—For a comprehensive credit report, visit the Credit Center.