Data Shows That Even Americans With Health Insurance Are Spending a Bundle on Medical Bills

A doctor sitting in the waiting room with her patient and explaining a bill.

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Having health insurance doesn't mean medical care suddenly gets inexpensive -- far from it.

Key points

  • Medical costs can be substantial even if you're insured.
  • It's important to set aside funds for healthcare costs, even if your insurance is great.

You often hear that going without health insurance is one of the biggest financial mistakes you can make. And there's a lot of truth to that.

Without health insurance, you could get stuck with thousands of dollars in bills if you get injured or fall ill and need extensive care. And while insurance can be expensive -- especially if you don't work for a company that subsidizes its cost -- it can more than pay for itself when emergencies strike.

But even patients with health insurance can face costly bills. In a recent Aflac survey, 51% of households in which everyone has health insurance still faced out-of-pocket costs over the past year. And 19% of those households faced costs over $1,500. Ouch.

Even if you have health insurance, it's important to save up for expenses you might incur. Here are some of the costs to sock money away for.

1. Your annual deductible

Your deductible is the amount of money you spend out of pocket each year before your health insurance company starts picking up the tab. There's no such thing as a preset or universal deductible -- it varies from one insurance plan to the next. Know what your deductible is, and, ideally, set aside enough in your savings to cover it.

If your annual deductible is high enough, you might qualify to participate in a health savings account. These accounts offer a host of tax benefits, so they're a good way to soften the blow.

2. Copays

Your insurance company might cover your cost to see an eye doctor or order a prescription. But you might still have to share that cost with a copay. As with annual deductibles, there are no universal rates for copays -- each insurance plan imposes its own fees.

Furthermore, your copay may differ depending on the services you need. Generally, it costs less to see your primary care physician when you're ill than it does to see a specialist. Your copay might also vary based on the medication you're prescribed -- just because you have a $10 copay for a course of antibiotics doesn't mean that's what you'll pay for other prescriptions.

3. Services your insurer won't cover

You may need a test or procedure that your insurance company doesn't pay for. You can appeal that decision to try to get your insurer to pick up the cost anyway. But in some cases, you can get stuck paying for certain services on your own.

That's why it's important to set extra money aside for healthcare. In addition to putting more money into your savings account, you might consider funding a flexible spending account or, if you're eligible, a health savings account.

Having health insurance can make your medical bills more manageable, but it won't eliminate them completely. Do your best to prepare for healthcare costs, so they don't wreck your finances or drive you into debt.

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