Disclosure: Diary of a First Time Mom is partnering with UnitedHealthcare to educate parents about selecting health insurance plans this open enrollment season. Although some form of compensation has been received, all opinions remain my own. Dear Diary, When I became a mom, I slid several spaces down my priority list. I bypassed my favorite stores and bought kid couture at shopping malls. I stocked my kitchen cabinets with Cheerios, Goldfish and other finger foods. I scheduled pediatrician appointments, preschool tours and professional photo shoots. As I made the world go round for my child, my world outside of motherhood stood still. But now I’m finally taking time to take care of myself—well, at least when something comes up. I must make sure I obtain quality, affordable health insurance. This is extremely important in the midst of cold and flu season. The falling temperature and rising germs are a recipe for exhausting myself, my sick days and my bank account. Currently, there’s a hospital collection agency on my answering machine demanding an outstanding debt. So as I enter the New Year, I’m looking into how to stay healthy and how not to go into debt. Here’s what you should inquire about when finding a health insurance plan and how you can save money on health insurance. 1. CHIP You or members of your family may be eligible for help paying for a health insurance plan. New rules make it possible for many moms to qualify for a tax credit, also called a subsidy. Or you may qualify for a program like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicaid. When I first became a mom, I figured a college degree and a good job cancelled out any chance of receiving help. But CHIP offers a sliding scale. Families can make more than six figures and still qualify! For example, a four-person household with an annual income of $68,688 will have an average monthly premium of $71 per child, plus any co-pays for services. 2. Tax Credits If you do not have health insurance through at work, you may be eligible for help paying for a plan offered in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Use a tax calculator, like the one on UnitedHealthcare’s website, to see if you may qualify for a subsidy known as a tax credit. Government subsidies pay for a portion of the plan premiums, and can be taken as a credit against annual federal taxes, or as a credit against the monthly plan premium. The chart below illustrates the family income ranges that may qualify for a subsidy. 3. Costs In addition to a Premium Tax Credit, there are other ways to save money on health care and reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Check to see if your provider is in your plan’s network. I previously switched plans and lost my daughter’s pediatrician since birth. It was a headache transferring her records and even getting appointments at the new office. The reason why I have an outstanding bill is that I couldn’t get in to see the one doctor the insurance actually covered. To make matters worse, we didn’t have a report with the new doctor. Her assistance, a medical student, interrogated me about my daughter’s diet, told me she was overweight and later discovered that he misread the chart! One way insurance companies help control costs is by working with hospitals and doctors to negotiate lower-cost contracts and create plan networks. So if you enroll in a plan with a network, you may save money by visiting in-network providers. Therefore, it’s important to check and see if your current providers are a part of the new plan. Choose a health insurance plan that is compatible with a tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA). An HSA allows you to put away a limited amount of pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible current and future medical expenses. This comes in handy if I need to get my braces or eyeglasses. Plan ahead for medical expenses. Log onto your plan’s website and use tools such as a treatment cost estimator to see what a medical procedure may cost. You also can talk with your doctor to learn more about the costs of treatment. Know when to seek emergency care. It’s usually best to visit your primary care doctor or an urgent care center unless it is an emergency. A previous plan that covered my family charged an arm and a leg to ride in an ambulance or visit the ER. Reduce prescription drug costs. Talk with your doctor about generic drugs and explore ways to save on your prescriptions. Mail-order options are generally less expensive than walk-in pharmacies. Another way I save money is to move myself up the priority list. I’m not at the top quite yet, but this year, I plan to schedule appointments in advance instead of waiting until something goes wrong. I am learning that in order to make the world go round for everyone else, I must make my world more balanced. I am resolving to eat healthier and exercise more often–which is more than I am doing at the moment! I also will manage my stress–may need to get tongue surgery from biting it a lot to avoid arguments! Hey DFTM–Are you shopping for a health insurance plan? Click here to find out how to choose the right plan for your family. And click this to evaluate a plan to see if it’s something you can even afford. One Response Janeane Davis January 14, 2015 Health insurance is not a luxury, it is not a want item. It is a need item. We improve quality of life for ourselves and our children when we have adequate health insurance. It is important to get the best health insurance possible and to use it early and often – before things go bad. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.