Have your health insurance premiums gone through the roof (like ours)? How to lower health insurance premiums that you pay each month through your employer.
How to lower health insurance premiums (the kind you pay monthly) has been top of mind for us. I don't know about you, but our health insurance premiums have gone through the roof over the last several years.
I remember when I used to work at a 9-5 job, Paul and I both kept our own employer's healthcare plans after marrying because it was cheaper that way. He was paying about $131/month in premiums, and I was paying about $160/month in premiums.
If I had added him onto my plan the cost would've been much more than $291 we were individually paying, and vice versa.
Now that I work for myself, we are both on Paul's health insurance plan.
He's changed companies, and we had a baby since.
Our monthly premium cost has ballooned to a whopping $630!
And I know that that's considered a “steal” to many other self-employed people without a spouse's employer-sponsored plan to latch onto.
Still, it gives me pause to consider ways for how to lower health insurance premiums.
And guess what? There is, right in front of our noses. We just didn't know it for the first year at his new job.
- What is Monthly Health Insurance Premium?
- Health Insurance Tips and Tricks
- Strategy #1: Use Your Company's Health Incentive Program
- Our Health Insurance Wellness Programs – Examples
- Strategy #2: Get Out of the ‘Disincentive' Category
- Strategy #3: Increase Your Deductible
- Strategy #4: Find an Employer Who Covers More of the Cost
- Financial Assistance for Health Insurance Premiums
What is Monthly Health Insurance Premium?
First up, what is the monthly health insurance premium you're paying?
This is a deduction from your paycheck that represents your portion of your health care insurance coverage (typically an employer will pick up the tab on part of the cost to insure you + your dependents).
This is what keeps your health insurance policy active.
Health Insurance Tips and Tricks
I'm going to share with you strategies to lower your health insurance premiums.
It's best to use several of these at once to get the most bang for your buck.
Pssst: Did you know that you don't have to have any military affiliation to get health insurance through USAA Health Insurance? Seriously! You'll want to check it out and see if they can out-quote your employer.
Strategy #1: Use Your Company's Health Incentive Program
Health insurance companies + employers aren't dummies. Especially when it comes to their bottom lines. They realize that when their pool of insured people actively pursue healthy lifestyles, their overall costs will decrease and their productivity will increase.
So many healthcare companies offer wellness programs that give monetary incentives for healthy habits.
In the long term this benefits the insurance company and the employer because they save money when the plan participants are healthier.
You really have to check in with your own health insurance company plan, because these incentive programs tend to vary quite a bit.
Still, here are some program examples:
Some programs offer rewards points you could redeem for gift cards and items. A few programs even allow you to redeem reward points towards reduced co-payment costs.Many healthcare companies offer wellness programs that give incentives for healthy habits. Click To Tweet
Examples of what you have to do to get these:
- Logging in meals you've eaten
- Logging minutes you've exercised
- Logging amount of water you drank
- Watching health-related webinars (about 15-25 minutes each, earning $25/pop)
Psst: You'll want to pair this program with other ways to get paid to walk and do exercise. It's true — there are ways to get cash for exercising!
Our Health Insurance Wellness Programs – Examples
Some also just offer gift cards and merchandise in exchange for reward points you earn, like the last health insurance plan I was on. In exchange for taking a health risk assessment, and logging in eating habits + exercise I earned a total of 23,280 points. With these points I scored a free Starbucks gift card, a yoga mat shoulder holder, a 9” spring form pan (to use in making cheesecakes, an admittedly unhealthy dessert − thanks BCBS!), and two movie tickets to the theater near our home.
With my husband's current job, we have Cigna. Through their wellness program, we are each able to earn up to $450 per calendar year to be used on gift cards and/or premium reduction from doing some of the following activities:
That $900 in premium reductions each year? That's nothing to glaze over!
With this wellness program, we have until October 1 of the year to complete activities in order to reap the premium reduction.
Activities include (each with their own premium reduction price tag − I've provided a few examples):
- Taking a personal health assessment + biometric screening ($150 reduction per spouse)
- Log 16,800 minutes of sleep
- Log 320 glasses of water
- Log 400,000 steps
- Talk to a free lifestyle coach over the phone ($75 reduction)
- Watch several webinars ($25 reduction)
Aside from the fact that getting in shape is going to positively affect our out-of-pocket healthcare spending for years to come, there's an immediate monetary effect as well.
Our monthly premium is $630. With $900 in possible premium reductions this year, we're looking at a possible 8.4% discount on our health insurance − something we would be paying for anyway.
Put another way? We'll almost cover the entire cost of a year's worth of gym membership.
Now that's sweet!
Spill the beans: does your own health insurance company have a wellness program? What does it offer as incentives?
Strategy #2: Get Out of the ‘Disincentive' Category
Beginning on January 1, 2012 there was a change to my healthcare plan at work. Plan participants who used tobacco 5 or more times in the 90 days leading up to the first of the year are now subject to an additional health insurance premium cost of between $30 to $90 per month.
My employer is certainly not the first to institute higher premiums for poor health habits.
According to a study by eHealth, smokers pay 14% higher premiums than the average premium paid by non-smoker employees, and employees in the ‘Obese’ BMI category pay an average monthly premium 22.6% higher than employees with ‘Normal’ BMI. Wal-mart, the nation’s largest employer, also made headlines recently when they began to charge smoking employees an extra $260 to $2,340 per year in healthcare premiums than non-smoking employees.
This is not an unexpected trend considering the times. The connection between ill health and smoking, being overweight, high cholesterol, etc. has been quantified. Smokers cost employers between $3,000-$4,000 more per year in health insurance than non-smokers (though some stats around the web say it is $1,000 per year more—I am sure the truth is somewhere in the middle). Obese employees can cost employers between $1,143 and $6,694 per person depending upon BMI, gender, etc.
Each employee in my office receives a mandatory physical once a year due to the nature of my work, so it would not be a far stretch to assume that one year they might get their information on whether or not we use tobacco, our body mass index (BMI), and any other metric they might use to increase health insurance premiums straight from a doctor.
Do you currently pay a higher premium for any health issues? If so, has it been an incentive for you to change any habits? How do you feel about this trend?
Strategy #3: Increase Your Deductible
Lowering your health insurance costs is often about finding a balance between your premiums and your deductible.
The higher your deductible is, the lower your monthly premiums will be.
The lower your deductible is, the higher your monthly premiums will be.
So, how do you choose which to do?
Know that, if you go with the lower monthly premiums, you need to have money in an emergency fund to be able to cover the cost of your health insurance deductible. After all — just one emergency could have you paying out your full deductible (which is now higher, since you're saving each month).
One suggestion is: if you are relatively healthy, go ahead and get a higher deductible. Do you have chronic conditions? Then you're probably better off with a lower-deductible, but higher monthly premiums.
Strategy #4: Find an Employer Who Covers More of the Cost
I've worked for two different places – one private and one government – with extremely affordable monthly premiums.
My coverage didn't suffer because of this; rather, they chose to cover more of the cost of their employee's health insurance premiums.
One place, covered 100% of the monthly premium for their employees — a tradition the CEO's founding father had started, and he was determined to continue.
When I worked for the state government, my monthly premium was just $130 (just me on the plan). Their policy was to cover most of the employee's, monthly premium, with the cost only increasing a lot once you add on a spouse/family dependents to the plan.
During your next job search, keep in mind how much of a chunk your monthly premiums can eat out of your paycheck, and be sure to ask how much the company covers.
Financial Assistance for Health Insurance Premiums
You can get subsidies to help you cover your monthly health insurance premiums on the healthcare marketplace. But, there's a catch with this.
You don't have to keep your employer's healthcare plan — you can use the marketplace and enroll during open enrollment or qualifying event. However, you aren't eligible for the health insurance premium subsidies if your employer is offering you a plan.
So, if you're employed and your employer offers a health care plan to you that meets requirements (of offering an “affordable” health insurance plan to you), then you're back at square one to trying and see if there is financial assistance for health insurance premiums.
In other words, you should definitely pay attention to the strategies above, and use those instead to lower your monthly health insurance premiums.