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Getty Images When you’re in your 30s, managing your health care costs may not be a major consideration. After all, you’re likely to still be in good health, and you may have other pressing needs or wants, such as buying a home.
Still, it’s worth spending a little time thinking about how to secure good care for yourself while not spending anymore than you need to. You may end up saving money that can go toward that down payment.
Here are a few tips to consider:
1. If you’re in good health and make minimal use of medical services, you might opt for a health insurance plan with a high deductible. That can considerably lower the cost of the plan.
2. Set up an HSA or FSA. Health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts are tax-sheltered accounts, permitting you to sock away money on a pretax basis to spend on certain qualified kinds of expenses, such as medical costs. To take advantage of HSAs, you need a high-deductible insurance plan, but for an FSA, you don’t. Expenses that qualify with FSAs include doctor visits, prescription drugs, and hospital stays, along with eye exams and glasses or contact lenses. (Gym memberships, nutritional supplements or a face lift generally won’t qualify.)
For 2013, most of us are limited to $2,500 a year in our FSA accounts, though there are some ways around that. Sums in the account are forfeited if not spent in time, though that rule might be amended in the future. Until then, though, plan carefully and fund the account with perhaps 20 percent less than you think you’ll spend in the year, just to be safe. (With HSAs, money you don’t spend in one year rolls over to the next.)
3. When you’re prescribed any medication, ask about less expensive alternatives. There may be a much cheaper generic version of the same drug, or a different (but also effective) drug treating the same condition that’s less costly. Shop around with pharmacies, too, as costs can vary widely between them.
4. At your workplace, make the most of wellness programs available to you. They’re often win-win propositions, helping employers lower healthcare costs, while helping workers get healthier and perhaps even save money. According to the National Business Group on Health, more than 40 percent of large companies offer workers incentives to participate in wellness programs, with those incentives averaging nearly $400. These programs address smoking cessation, weight loss and stress reduction, among other issues.
5. Learn what to expect under “Obamacare.” The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has a lot to offer most Americans, including those who aren’t yet sick. If you’re among the millions of Americans who work for employers who don’t offer health insurance, under Obamacare you’ll be able to buy insurance for yourself. You may also qualify for subsidies to help you afford it, if necessary. If you’re unlucky enough to have some pre-existing condition (such as diabetes, heart issues, or high blood pressure), insurers will no longer be able to use that to raise premiums on you or, worse, deny you coverage. Overall, healthcare costs for many people are expected to fall.
6. Get and stay healthy. While you can’t completely control your health, there’s still a lot you can do to stay as healthy as possible. For example, exercise, eat healthful foods, get regular checkups and preventative care, and avoid bad habits such as smoking. Don’t neglect important screenings, as some dangerous conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can start in your 30s. If there are diseases or conditions in your family history such as cancer, be sure you and your doctor keep those in mind, too. Taking care of yourself like this can set you up for a longer life, and can save you a lot in healthcare costs along the way, too.
Don’t take your health for granted, and don’t assume that you needn’t plan for your health needs if you’re still young and healthy. You can save a lot of money, headaches, and even heartaches by managing your health care well.
You can follow Motley Fool contributor Selena Maranjian on Twitter.