If you want to pay less for medical care, signing up for a health insurance plan is usually the first suggestion that you might hear. But it doesn’t always save as much as you might think.
For one thing, high-deductible health insurance plans seem to be on the rise these days. This is especially true if you’ve purchased a plan on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. These plans offer lower monthly premiums, but the trade off is that there’s a hefty deductible that the patient has to meet before the insurance company begins helping out with costs.
With one of these types of plans, even though you have health insurance, it can sometimes feel like you don’t. That’s because you still have pay out of pocket for most medical visits until your spending hits that magic number.
How to be smart with your high-deductible plan
“If you need to go the hospital, that’s when your insurance is good to have,” says Scottie Shelley of Sunset Primary Care. “Obamacare helps because you have insurance, but they’re all high deductible plans.” Sunset Primary Care is a medical provider in West Columbia that wants to help those looking to cut costs by offering lower, cash-only “Direct Pay” rates to patients. Sunset offers an average savings of 40 percent of the fees that you’d usually pay to other urgent treatment providers.
So if you have a high-deductible plan – whether from your employer or through Obamacare – seek out a Direct Pay provider like Sunset.
Use a Health Savings Account to save on your tax bill
A Health Savings Account or HSA allows you place money into a special tax-favored savings account set up by your employer. A set amount is deducted from each paycheck – up to $2,550 a year under current rules – and set aside in a separate bank account that’s just for medical expenses.
“In most cases, you’ll have a debit card from the bank that manages that account,” Shelley says. You can use that debit card to pay for care at your medical provider, hospital or pharmacy.
“These funds never expire – it’s your money, and yours to keep,” Shelley says. Finding a Direct Pay medical provider like Sunset Primary Care allows you to stretch those HSA dollars further.
Better choices for those who must pay cash
Some people have no choice but to pay cash for their medical care. They could be undocumented, or work jobs where they are paid cash off the books.
“Everyone needs access to healthcare,” Shelley says. By focusing on lower costs for cash-only patients, Sunset allows everyone in the community to be able to see a medical provider and get the medical help that they need.
Comparing the costs on Direct Pay
Visits at Sunset Primary Care start off at $60. “Compare that to other urgent care treatment centers, and you’ll see that their fees usually start off at $125,” Shelley says.
“Even though we don’t accept insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, we strongly suggest that you continue to carry your insurance if you are covered,” Shelley says. Sunset provides patients with document that they can submit to their insurance carriers for reimbursement.
“Our program covers the basics of your everyday care and gives you access to a qualified and caring medical provider,” Shelley says. “Being a pay-as-you-go patient or joining our one of our membership plans will allow you to save money on out-of-pocket expenses.”
Sunset’s monthly memberships have fees ranging from $50 to $80 a month depending on age. These fees completely cover annual physicals and refills for existing medication. They also provide discounts for in-house lab tests. Members can also get priority same-day or next-day appointments.