Nobody likes to think about money—but it turns out no one can stop thinking about it. In fact, a Landcruisers survey of more than 1,000 women found that financial problems were a huge cause of anxiety (82 percent of respondents said they'd felt stressed about their finances in the past year). One key cause: the rising cost of healthcare. Ironically, all this worrying about the affordability of staying well can harm your health: Long-term stress has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and depression. The good news is that regaining control over what you pay for medical care is easier than you think. Here, expert ideas to help you start feeling happier and healthier—literally and fiscally—today.
The future of healthcare seems far from settled, but one thing is certain: Women want coverage to protect themselves and their families—and that's not always easy to find as costs rise. What you can do right now:
If your current plan's premiums are getting pricey—or if you have no plan at all—think about a high-deductible option. "Year after year, a health emergency is what bankrupts people more than anything else," says Jean Chatzky, a personal-finance expert and author of AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip. "Having a high-deductible plan will give you peace of mind as it protects you from a worst-case scenario."
The popularity of HSAs is growing, and they're likely to stick around for the long term. "HSAs are triple-tax-free," says Chatzky. "The money goes in pretax and grows tax-free, and if you use it to pay for medical expenses, withdrawals are tax-free." The bottom line: Having an HSA can lower the cost of medical care by up to one-third.
Unexpected healthcare expenses may come up, but you don't have to stash away enough savings to cover a lengthy hospital stay. Instead, if you don't have access to an HSA, aim to set aside $2,000—you'd be surprised how many medical issues that can cover, says Chatzky.
Some respondents told WD they'd skipped as many as five doctor's visits in the past year, often because they were stressed about the potential cost. It makes sense: "Medical providers don't post a 'menu' of prices," says Elisabeth Schuler, founder and president of Patient Navigator LLC, a patient-advocacy group. Still, there are ways to get care and lower your bill. Here's how you can be your own best advocate:
If your claim has been denied, there's a good chance it was simply the result of clerical or coding errors, says Schuler. (Even a detail like an incorrect birthdate can lead to billing mistakes.) Call the insurance company and ask why you were turned down. If an error did occur, your provider will have to issue a new claim.
If you're facing a particularly high bill—say, $1,000 or more—a doctor or hospital might agree to a scheduled payment plan if you're in difficult financial shape. (Always ask for one that's interest-free.)
Routine wellness exams and preventative screenings like mammograms are currently covered under the Affordable Care Act. But if you go outside the scope of what's included in the visit (for example, you ask your doc to examine a painful shoulder at a routine checkup), you could be charged. You have the right to get clarity on any part of the bill you don't agree with or understand, says Schuler.
Don't be afraid to ask if you're getting the best possible deal. The store may be able to offer coupons or lower the price of your prescription drug to match a competitor's.
Some medications are cheaper when you don't go through insurance. To compare, have the pharmacist ring up the item both with and without your insurance.
If you can't afford a medication, you may qualify to receive free or discounted drugs. Visit the manufacturer's website to learn whether you qualify.
Some insurance companies offer a discount to people who buy from sites like express-scripts.com and caremark .com.
Bottling up your troubles can make the problem worse. "Most people feel a huge sense of relief after sharing their circumstances with someone," says Brad Klontz, PsyD, a financial psychologist and coauthor of Mind Over Money. Confide in one (or more) of these people:
It can be awkward to talk about money, but it gets easier. "It becomes a two-way conversation," says Chatzky. "What you find is that their situation isn't perfect, either."
An accountability partner keeps you focused and motivated. If you don't want to share your financial struggles with someone you know, join one of the Saving Advice forums.
A good advisor will help you grow your assets and plan for the future. But choosing one can be tough, so ask for a referral or use resources like Planner Search, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and Let's Make a Plan.
Sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs, this online tool gives users a to-do list of tips to help them meet a goal, whether it's saving for retirement, paying off debt or—yes—worrying less about money.
Create a budget, and this free app will tell you how much money you can spend daily, weekly and monthly. Plus, it tracks your expenses and lets you total the cost of, say, your weekly Starbucks runs.
The app syncs to your bank account, analyzes your balance and spending habits and stealthily moves money from your checking account into your Digit savings account.