Insurance Health Insurance 10 Ways To Keep Your Health Care and Insurance Affordable By Mila Araujo Updated on October 28, 2022 Reviewed by Eric Estevez Fact checked by David Rubin In This Article View All In This Article Decide Which Plan is Best Use a Health Insurance Broker Manage Your Health Care Costs Health Savings Accounts Health Insurance Waivers Learn the Basics Negotiate Service Costs Find Plan Discounts Save Money on Prescriptions Cut Down on Medical Visits Negotiate and Compare Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images Health care costs are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. Fifteen percent of adults have medical bills they cannot repay within 12 months, and half of the population is worried that medical bills will bankrupt them, according to a 2020 Gallup-West study. If money is tight, these 10 tips can help you get the best value for your money. Key Takeaways The first step in finding affordable health care is ensuring that you have the best coverage for your situation; the plan with the cheapest premium may not be the cheapest overall.Health insurance brokers can help you find the best plan for your situation.Health savings accounts and insurance waivers can also help keep health care costs down. Decide Which Plan Is Best for You You don't want to judge a health plan by the price tag. Even though the first thing you want to know when you buy a plan is how much it will cost, the real answer is not always clear. Your financial status and family needs dictate how much you can afford. Your monthly payments might be low, but your other costs could be very high. If you choose a low premium/high deductible plan, you may end up paying a lot more if you or a family member are the types that tend to visit the doctor more. You'll have to guess how much all your appointments, medications, or emergencies could cost based on the health of the people covered by your policy. On the other hand, if you're willing to pay higher premiums, then you'll have a low deductible. This means you'll pay more for insurance coverage, but you'll have fewer out-of-pocket costs for the health care you receive. Note Lower premiums may not be the cheapest option, so you shouldn't base your decision solely on them. If you know you'll need to use a lot of health care services, then it may be cheaper to pay higher premiums in exchange for lower out-of-pocket costs. Use a Health Insurance Broker The marketplace doesn't always have the best prices. Since the marketplace began, government regulations have helped millions of people get coverage. It can be tough to find your way through the marketplace, and you still need to take the time to compare your options. Aside from the marketplace, there are other options you can explore. A broker can help you find what you need and can make a major difference. This may be the best way to work within a budget without shopping or doing all the work by yourself. Brokers do not work for one insurance company. They might work for many. This means it's in their best interest to look out for you. Brokers are paid by insurance companies, not patients. Brokers typically receive commissions from the companies when they sell policies for them. The average broker earns between $14 and $23 per member per month in the U.S., but the exact rate depends on the type of coverage they sell and where they sell it. Note It doesn't hurt to contact a health insurance broker and see what they can find for you. Manage Your Health Care Costs You might not think billing errors are a problem if you have health insurance, but you often pay a portion of your medical bills through copays, coinsurance, and deductibles. Check your medical bills for errors to make sure you're paying what you're supposed to be paying. This will save you money on what you are paying out of pocket, and it will help keep your costs down. When looking over your medical bills, ask for an itemized billing that lists the supplies, medications, or procedures you are being billed for. You should also make sure you confirm all the data to the best of your ability. Note Watch out for balance billing. Balance billing is when a provider bills you for any balance left over if there is a difference between the bill and the allowed amount. Preferred providers are not allowed to do this. It helps to know if you are legally responsible for paying a balance after the insurance payment is made. Health Savings Accounts A health savings account is an account that lets you place pre-tax money into it for health care use. Since the money is not taxed unless you use it for other reasons, it is a great way to save money on health care. Health Insurance Waivers After comparing plans and costs with your spouse, you could look into signing a health insurance waiver with one group insurer. If you find that one will offer you more, you could waive the group insurance from your employer and use your partner's insurance. Note Subsidies can also lower the costs of health care. A tool like a health care calculator can help you find out whether you can get one or not. Learn the Basics Learning the health insurance terms and how they affect you can help you make better decisions and save money on your health insurance costs. When looking at health insurance choices, shop around and compare the copay, coinsurance, deductibles, and other factors like lifetime maximums. For instance, health savings accounts are a good way to plan for the future. You may have built savings up in one of these plans, but you could find yourself paying taxes or penalties if you don't understand how to use it. Negotiate Medical Costs We aren't always in the best mindset when we are sick. Thinking about asking for a discount is not high on our list of things to do when we're on a gurney needing help. Billing departments, doctors, and health care facilities may be open to talking about lower costs, especially if you offer to help make their work easier. Before you need treatment: Ask if you can get a discount for paying in advance if you have a procedure coming up at a future date.Ask if they can allow a discount for paying cash.Speak to your doctor about your health care concerns. If you have a high deductible or other issues, the doctor might be able to reduce their fees. Every cent helps when you are looking to save money. Be sure and explore these options and make these questions part of your list of policy must-haves. Look for health services providers who can give you the greatest financial help while in their care. Find Health Insurance Plan Discounts Technology is making more data about the state of our health easily available. Many insurers are starting to look at using tools like fitness trackers to minimize their risk. As a result, some insurance providers may provide discounts or options that save you money. Make sure to ask about the changes in your policy every year since this type of program is becoming more common. Save Money on Prescription Drugs Before choosing a provider or renewing your policy, find out where they stand with the prescription medications you take. If you have prescriptions that you regularly will need to fill, ask for a list from your provider and see where they stand on their list. You might be able to find cheaper versions by asking for generics. You could also use technology to find the lowest prices for the medicine you need. You might be able to find your medications cheaper if you fall into a certain income category. Note Ask your pharmacist if the medicine's manufacturer has a program for lower-income patients. Cut Down on Unnecessary Medical Visits Doctors often perform tests as precautions. Ask your doctor if they really need to do the test or procedure they are recommending. There might be less costly alternatives that can save you money. Talking with your doctor helps them work with you better and can also cut costs. Review your past spending for preventative care for yourself and your family. Try to plan ahead with the help of your physician for upcoming regular visits like check-ups to see if you can get lower rates. Negotiate and Compare Health Care Service Options You can save a great deal of money by shopping around. Doctors and medical service centers all charge different rates. Saving money this way relies on two factors. One is whether you can get the services you need, and the other is if your health plan allows you to choose. Much of this depends on the type of plan you have. If your health insurance plan limits your options, you won't be able to choose where you can get services and may pay more. Once you know what you can do, call around and find out what the going rates are for the care you think you might need. The emergency room may have higher costs than a local clinic. You can avoid them by checking into local services in advance. This can save you money if you need care that doesn't require emergency services. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Where can I find affordable health insurance? The law requires employers with 50 or more "full-time equivalent" (FTE) workers to offer access to affordable health insurance plans. If you aren't covered by this requirement, like those who freelance or do gig work, then you can find affordable coverage through the federal health insurance marketplace (or a state marketplace). How much does health insurance cost? The average cost of a premium to maintain health insurance in the U.S. was $7,739 ($22,221 for families) in 2021. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Gallup. "50% in U.S. Fear Bankruptcy Due to Major Health Event." HealthCare.gov. "Agent and Broker (Health Insurance)." Kaiser Family Foundation. "Broker Compensation by Health Insurance Market." HealthCare.gov. "Balance Billing." HealthCare.gov. "Health Savings Account (HSA)." Congressional Research Service. "The Affordable Care Act's (ACA) Employer Shared Responsibility Determination and the Potential Employer Penalty," Page 1. Kaiser Family Foundation. "2021 Employer Health Benefits Survey."