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Money Matters: Budgeting for medical expenses is a healthy financial strategy

By Lindsey Certonio - Special to the Daily Herald | Jan 6, 2024

Courtesy photo

Considering how to pay for health care before you need it can help you save money.

As most are aware, it can be quite expensive to seek medical care. Unfortunately, in many cases, it is inevitable. The average American can expect to pay an astonishing $12,900 a year on health care.

Since health care is unavoidable for most, it’s wise to come up with a plan to help prepare for expected and even unexpected expenses. Taking initiative ahead of time can help you spend your money more wisely. Try to save some extra cash each month, choose an insurance that fits your needs, look into HSA and FSA accounts, and keep an eye on your health.

Emergency fund

From emergencies to daily medications, the cost of your health care can become overwhelmingly expensive. With emergency room visits starting at $2,400, it is essential to have savings for the unforeseen. Consider storing away money every month to use when in a tight spot. By building up a substantial emergency fund, you can save yourself a lot of unwanted stress.

Keep your medical savings account separate from your regular savings. This will help you understand and budget for when the time comes to pay a medical bill.

Choose the best insurance for you

Everyone’s circumstances are different. That’s why there are plenty of insurance companies and plans to choose from. Picking the best one for you and your family is the key to spending the least amount of money possible on your medical needs. Choosing the right insurance takes a lot of research.

A great starting point is to check with your employer. Oftentimes, companies will have a few insurance policies put together and can assist their employees with them. If the policies don’t cover everything you typically need, consider looking into other plans. Compare these few factors when in the market:

  • Monthly premium.
  • Deductible.
  • Out-of-pocket maximum.
  • Copay.
  • Coinsurance.
  • In-network.

While you’re shopping around, keep open enrollment in mind to make sure you are covered for the following year.

Utilize HSA and FSA

Navigating what savings accounts you should use can become complicated. Let’s break it down a little bit to understand which one is going to give you the most bang for your buck.

While both of these accounts are pre-tax, they have slight differences. Health savings accounts (HSA) require a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) in order to qualify. The money that you put into these accounts will roll over to the next year if unused.

Flexible spending accounts (FSA) are a great choice if you have medical expenses at the beginning of the year since you don’t need to already have accumulated money. As long as you are projected to have said money in your account by the end of the year, you are able to spend it ahead of time. Just make sure you use all of the money in your FSA before the end of each year since, in many cases, the funds do not roll over. Be mindful that these funds can only be used on authorized expenses such as copays and medication.

Keep on top of your health

Did you know people in the U.S. spend more on health care than any other country? With our busy lives, it can be easy to put off important health considerations. However, it’s wise to regularly visit your various physicians and, if you’re over 50, set a goal to see them at least once a year. These checkups can help detect illnesses early on.

The reality of health care expenses is not a matter of if you will have to pay a large bill but rather when you will need to do so. As the cost of health care continues to rise, remember to build up an emergency fund, find an insurance that suits your needs, invest in an HSA or an FSA account, and visit your doctor often.

Lindsey Certonio is a project manager at Stage Marketing, a full-service content marketing agency based in Provo.


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