When you’re trying to make room in an already tight budget, it’s easy to think of health care as a luxury expense. But the truth is that you can’t afford not to take care of your health. Creating and sticking to a health care budget can make a huge difference in your well-being, both physical and financial. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Paying for Health Care Is Worth It
Simply put, getting sick can be expensive. And getting sick without insurance can mean medical bills you’ll be paying off for years. This is especially true if you have one of the chronic, largely preventable diseases that make up 75 percent of health spending in the United States. And one thing’s for sure — getting a huge bill after a procedure or a sudden trip to the emergency room without insurance will do worse things to your budget than a health plan’s monthly premium could.
In theory, the cheapest possible option is to go without health insurance and then never need to see a doctor, require medication or get any sort of medical treatment — but in practice, that just isn’t very realistic. What you can do is lower your costs by taking control of your own health care. But what does that actually mean?
How to Make Health Care More Affordable
While dealing with medical bills can be overwhelming — especially when you’re struggling just to make making ends meet — here are a few things you can do to keep both your health and your finances in check.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. You probably have at least a general sense of what’s good for your health. Add some vegetables to your plate, exercise when you can, get plenty of sleep and try to cut down on smoking and drinking. If you’re feeling overly stressed, take a few minutes to listen to relaxing music or practice mindfulness exercises, since even if your diet is impeccable, too much stress can still harm your health. Practicing these healthy habits on a regular basis just might keep you out of the emergency room at a time when taking on another bill would wreck your budget.
- Practice preventive care. Preventing disease before it starts or spreads is key to keeping your health care budget in check — plus, it can help you live a longer, healthier life. Take advantage of regular health checkups and screenings.
Even thinking beyond the discomfort of being really sick, treating an ailment early on will probably be much cheaper than handling the medical costs of a full-blown disease.
- Include health care costs in your budget. Make funding your health care costs as nonnegotiable as paying for other necessities, like rent and food. Then, build your budget around those priorities. In addition to budgeting for your monthly premiums, start building an emergency fund with enough money to cover at least three months of living expenses. If any unexpected costs come up in the case of a health emergency, having some money put away will give you breathing room to focus on recovering rather than on figuring out how you’ll pay your bills.
- Make sure you have the right insurance coverage. You might not have coverage in the areas you need it the most. Just because you’ve had the same health plan for a while doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best one for your situation now. The next time you go to sign up for a health insurance plan, spend a little time reading through everything the plan offers — even the stuff in the fine print. You might also want to consider purchasing a supplemental health plan, like critical illness or hospital indemnity insurance, to help absorb the financial shock of an accident or injury. These plans can fill gaps in your coverage and pay out cash to help you cover costs.
Maintaining good health at an affordable price is an active process, and it involves so much more than remembering to eat kale once in a while. Don’t wait until tomorrow to take control of your physical and financial well-being.