WTOP Interview: 5 Steps to Maximize the Value of Your Healthcare Plan

Interview Transcript

Hillary Howard: It’s 05:11, health care costs from premiums, deductibles and out of pocket expenses can top $18,000 a year on average for a family coverage. With costs this high and rising every year, it’s really a good idea to think about how to get your money’s worth from your health care plan.

Shawn Anderson: Well joining us now to talk more about it Dawn Doebler, co-founder of Her Wealth and Senior Wealth Advisor at The Colony Group, welcome back Dawn.

Dawn Doebler: Thank you.

Shawn: Given the skyrocketing costs of health care these days, what should we do to make sure we’re getting the most out of our health care dollars?

Dawn: Well Shawn families are spending a lot of money on health insurance and so we want to give some ideas on how to maximize your value.

1.    So first consider having non-emergency procedures early in the calendar year, if you have some control over scheduling those it increases the chances that you’ll need your deductible and then you can share expenses later in the year with the insurance company.

2.    Second, make sure you audit all your bills, stats show that actually there are a lot of errors made in medical bills and if you don’t have time or the ability to do that on your own there are companies you can hire to help you with that.

3.    Thirdly make sure you maximize your tax savings, we’ve talked a lot about HSAs and if you don’t have an HSA account you might have a flexible spending account an FSA and in both cases you’re saving by paying bills with pre-tax dollars.

4.    And then lastly anticipate mid-year events that can impact your coverage, because if your coverage changes mid-year you can be hurt by deductibles, getting set back to 0 or the cost may increase for you to see your regular doctor.

Hillary: Are there any other special circumstances that can affect coverage Dawn?

Dawn: Yes Hillary, we actually work with clients who have life events that change their coverage mid-year and some examples are people who become suddenly single, through divorce or being widowed and even though children can stay on policy, once you’re divorced the law requires that you be taken off your ex-spouse’s health insurance. If you don’t have access to your own employer plan and you are divorcee or widow you should consider COBRA and, yes, COBRA can be expensive but it’s often a really good immediate stop gap, especially if you’re in the middle of working out the details of an estate or divorce settlement. And be aware of notification rules in case of a divorce you may become ineligible for COBRA if you don’t notify your insurance company and also I want to make a comment on graduate students, a lot of graduate students are too old to be on their parent’s policy but they may not yet be working full time, so they need to get coverage of their own, either through the Affordable Care Act or through college health plans and let me just say. I just went through a health crisis with my daughter who is on a college health plan, she’s out of state and don’t discount those plans they can be very good coverage with low deductibles and oftentimes there’s the university hospital, so the care can actually be good under those plans.

Shawn:  40 seconds here, more people are working past 65 or they’re planning on it, how does health care coverage they get through work affects their Medicare plans?

Dawn: Well Shawn this is a complicated area, there’s a lot of information in the article on herwealth.com but let me say that if you expect to have employer coverage past age 65 the first thing to do is contact your employee benefits administrator, employers and the government have rules for each part of Medicare and penalties do apply if you don’t sign up in time. So that’s why you want to start analyzing the options before you’re 65 birthday and like everything that we’ve talked about planning can really save you money.

Hillary: Alrighty Dawn, thanks so much, that’s Dawn Doebler of The Colony Group, for more information go to wtop.com search, Her Wealth.