Cutting Healthcare Costs

Healthcare costs are projected to jump as much as 8% in 2013. Now's the time of year when many consumers must brace themselves for the hike - open enrollment. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, tells what to consider when picking your plan.

Healthcare costs are going up, which means your premiums are, too. More employers are offering so-called consumer-driven health plans, which offer lower premiums but higher deductibles. They're worth a look, but you'll need to have a good idea of your typical healthcare spending to see if they'll save you any cash.

Weigh all plan options available to you and your spouse to find the best coverage and price. New Affordable Care provisions require healthcare providers to detail coverage and premiums on a standardized form, so it should be easier to make an apples-to-apples comparison this year.

If you have the opportunity, contributing money to a pre-tax flexible spending account can be a great way to cut out-of-pocket healthcare costs, like doctors' co-pays and prescription costs. Then figure out how much to set aside based on expected costs. There's a new maximum this year - $2,500 - so factor that in.

As health care costs rise, more employers are offering valuable rewards if you pledge to make healthier choices. You might be able to get a discount on your premiums, or just cold, hard cash -- up to $1,000 in some cases. Talk to HR, and your insurer, to see if either offers perks for learning to cook, losing weight or attending health screenings.

Watch the deadline. Some employers give you as little as two weeks to make a decision. And in some cases, you have to make an active choice. Your current plan won't necessarily roll over to next year, which could leave you uncovered. Even if you're pretty sure you don't want to change anything, go through the paperwork and re-affirm your selection.

For more information on healthcare open enrollment season and other consumer tips click here.

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