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  • Writer's pictureMark Roberts

New Plans for a New Year!

In just a few days, 2023 begins. In the insurance world, that means it's a new plan year. You have a whole year to explore various options that you chose to put in place. If you haven't, it's not too late to buy voluntary health insurance products, especially for dental, vision and other ancillary health related needs. If your employer didn't offer any of these benefits this year, then you can purchase them on your own at any time. If you work for a company that did provide benefits but you missed the enrollment period, consider looking at them in order of importance to you.

Costs are going up. To reduce costs, you are going to need to plan well. According to a recent survey by Segal, an HR consulting firm, cost increases - mostly driven by inflation - for most dental coverages are expected to reach 4 percent. Also, the projected annual cost trend for outpatient prescription drugs is expected to be approaching double-digit levels, the highest rate observed since 2015, mostly driven by price increases and new-to-market specialty drugs.

Due to the healthcare worker flight from employment (3% per month according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics), the labor shortage is causing costs to rise due to the loss of available staff. Fees for remaining providers increase as doctors and nurses leave or retire. There's an estimated additional 47 percent of healthcare workers intending to leave the field within the next three years as reported by Elsivier Health.

Be on the lookout for benefits that can work together to help offset out of pocket costs, such as combining a high deductible health plan with a health savings account. You can add a hospital accident plan to your healthcare design for a few dollars a month that pays you directly in case you have to go to the emergency room if you have an accident. Purchasing a critical illness plan can help offset out of pocket costs if you are diagnosed with a major health problem, such as cancer, heart attack, kidney failure and more. As well, get a quality telemedicine product that helps reduce costs and saves time.

If you are all of a sudden unable to work due to illness or an accident, you can help save most of your monthly income with a disability plan if you are not able to go back to work for a while. That product can pay you a certain percentage of your paycheck, and it typically starts providing you a regular payment at a certain point (usually after 90 days). Based on what your employer provides in the way of benefits, you may have the option to purchase this product during open enrollment. If not, you can buy it on the open market as an individual plan.

Here are seven keys to help you control costs in 2023:

1. Plan ahead. - So many times, most people feel they are never going to have an issue. It's the old, "It'll never happen to me" syndrome. It's too late to insure yourself after an event takes place.

2. Shop the market. - There are several insurance carriers who offer similar products, and they all charge different rates. It may take some time to research them, but your homework can pay off. Or, hire a broker or insurance agent to do it for you.

3. Be proactive. - Don't wait on someone else to provide answers. If you need help, ask for it. Starting the process is half the battle. Most people don't like to make hard choices. However, you are your own best boss when it comes to your health.

4. Use your benefits wisely, especially on the preventive side. Get your screenings and exams done before something comes up. Your doctor, dentist and optometrist are trained medically to find health problems early and diagnose them before they become problematic.

5. If you are taking medications for any reason, ask your family physician to prescribe generic drugs that can reduce the cost of taking medicine. Sometimes, based on your personal physiology, you need to take brand name, but most of the time a generic form of the prescription works just as well.

6. Find a good advocacy product. Companies that can help you navigate your health plan and any other insurance products you have are worth the money. Not only that, but often they can help negotiate billing for you and find less expensive options for procedures or other health needs.

7. Hire a great health broker or agent. The health insurance world can be tricky, confusing, and sometimes just downright hard to understand. When you find an expert, let him or her work for you. Ask around to find a good one. Also, there are websites that rate them. It's worth your time to invest in an agent that knows the market and represents you to the carrier.

There are several affordable options for various benefits on this website. Or even better, contact me at your earliest convenience to talk about building a health program for you. We can have a conversation about what works best for you in 2023.

Happy New Year!

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