Health insurance can help you afford health care costs: Part 2

Calculate how much you spend out-of-pocket for total health costs. Three reasons why it can save you a bundle.

Health care can be costly. Doctor visits, medicine, braces and glasses are some expenses you have to pay for beyond an insurance premium. The good news is there are ways to manage your health care costs to save money. This article will focus on estimating your total health care out-of-pocket costs. Also, look for related articles on reasons to have health insurance (Part 1) and special health savings accounts (Part 3).

Many people enroll in the Marketplace in silver and bronze plans with the lowest premium. But for patients with regular health care needs, much of their annual health expenses are also determined by the cost-sharing structure of the plan they select. The National Health Council has created a free, online calculator to help people understand the plans available in their state.

Chronic diseases are among the most prevalent, costly and preventable of all health issues. Over the past 30 years, obesity has tripled among young people over the age of 6. That statistic translates into tens of millions of Americans who face an increased risk of type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, osteoarthritis and other serious health problems associated with excess body fat, according to the National Institutes of Health [NIH] budget request fiscal year 2011. The annual average expenditure on an older adult with chronic conditions is $5,115 as opposed to $211 for an older adult without a chronic condition (Chi, 2011).

The Putting Patients First calculator is easy-to-use, helps people have a better understanding of their health insurance marketplace options, and find coverage that meets their individual health care and budget needs. The calculator shows how an individual’s total annual health care spending can vary based on plan selection.

With this free calculator, you can enter your unique health usage information – including estimated number of doctor/specialist visits, hospital stays and surgeries, and prescription medications (both generics and brand drugs) – to see how your costs will vary depending on the different types of plans sold in their state. The calculator uses premiums based on actual 2015 marketplace premiums in the state. If your household size and income details are between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, the premiums are reduced to reflect the application of possible tax credits.

Michigan State University Extension is providing education about health insurance basics this year, including the why, what and how for making a smart decision. Figuring your out-of-pocket health costs is part of the presentation. Find out about Smart Choice: Health Insurance Monday webinars, workshops and factual information at http://aca.msue.msu.edu.

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