How To Prepare For Healthcare Changes Today
There may be changes coming to your healthcare benefits at work. Some people blame Obamacare while others blame a changing economic landscape. Regardless of the reason, the reality is that companies are rethinking the level of coverage they give to their employees and how much that coverage will cost. A recent poll by consulting firm Deloitte found that around 9% of employers were planning to drop health insurance coverage in the next three years. Since this poll was conducted before the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, that number could be even higher now. The company cited rising costs causing a negative impact on companies' bottom lines.

SEE: Intro To Insurance: Health Insurance

In late 2011, Walmart announced that it was ending coverage for employees and their spouses who worked less than 24 hours per week citing rising costs. Even for those companies that choose to provide coverage, the employee portion of the premiums continue to rise, effectively reducing an employee's take home pay. Some critics of Obamacare warn that due to a provision that requires businesses with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance, some businesses will avoid this requirement by laying off employees and hiring independent contractors to avoid having 50 people on their payrolls.

With healthcare benefits in jeopardy, what should you do if your healthcare is cut or reduced? The Obama healthcare law will mandate that larger companies offer healthcare plans, but what if you work for a truly small business?

The Exchange
The law will set up an open market, much like the auto insurance industry: The uninsured can shop for health insurance policies with the intent that consumers will come out the winners when companies battle for customers. The beginnings of this market are already in place at healthcare.gov. Forbes reports that eventually companies may drop company sponsored plans and provide subsidies for employees to find their own coverage through the exchange.

How Much Will It Cost?
If you have company sponsored coverage, the total annual cost is likely around $5,400, with your employer paying about $4,500 of that expense, but what if you're forced to purchase your own coverage? In 2011, a study found that the average premium for individual health insurance was $183 per month with a $2,935 deductible. Family policies averaged $414 per month with a $3,879 deductible.

There is much debate over the cost of insurance once the new law goes into effect in 2014. Some believe that the law will drive up costs by placing more seriously ill people in the health insurance pool, while others believe that costs will come down as more healthy people become insured.

SEE: Fighting The High Costs Of Healthcare

What If Your Coverage Is Reduced?
Regardless of how Obamacare eventually looks, it's likely that you'll spend more for your company sponsored health insurance in the future. First, consider a flexible spending account or health savings account that allows you to pay for a portion of your healthcare expenses with pretax money, effectively giving you a 20 to 30% discount on a portion of your care.

Next, think of your healthcare as any other expense. Use doctors in your network, get price quotes on the total costs of procedures, purchase 90-day supplies of prescription medication and don't go to the emergency room unless your condition truly is an emergency. Urgent care facilities are often a fraction of the cost of the emergency room.

The Bottom Line
The new healthcare laws set to go into effect in the next couple of years are complicated and nobody knows what healthcare will look like in 2014. But, looking back just a few years, it's clear that companies are aggressively looking for ways to cut healthcare costs by putting more of responsibility on the employee. Purchase your healthcare just as you would any other large purchase. Shop around for the best value and learn to be frugal without impacting the quality of care you deserve.

SEE: How To Choose A Healthcare Plan




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