If you have health insurance, you probably have a health insurance deductible, too. That means that until you reach a specific dollar amount in healthcare spending within a given year, you are on the hook for all of your medical expenses above and beyond your monthly premium (except for some preventive services that insurers are required by law to cover). Depending on your plan, the amount varies: It can be as low as $50, or a significant number. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans, the average family deductible for people enrolled in employer-sponsored plans is close to $2,000. And that is only the average—23% have deductibles of $5,000 or more. Only 7% have no deductible at all.
On the bright side, once you meet your deductible you can take care of all of those nagging health concerns without worrying about how you are going to pay for another doctor visit, another prescription, or another X-ray.
I met my deductible, now what?
In fact, now is the time to prioritize the medical care you’ve been putting off. Otherwise, you’ll start all over again with your deductible come January. Not sure where to start? We’ve put together a list of five things to use your health insurance for after your deductible is met.
1. See a physical therapist.
Sports injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis. These are just a few of the many conditions that physical therapy (PT) can help. But the cost can really add up, says Katy Votava, Ph.D., president and founder of Goodcare.com, a consulting firm that helps consumers navigate the financial aspects of their healthcare coverage. Because of the high cost of PT, she says many people minimize their visits or avoid them altogether. Assuming your insurance plan covers physical therapy, your appointments should be more affordable once your deductible is met—maybe $0; maybe a co-pay, but either way much easier on your bottom line.
2. Get your prescriptions refilled.
Your medicine bottles don’t need to be completely empty in order for you to qualify for a refill. If you are running low or eligible to order more, stock up now. “I recommend that people look closely at their prescription medication and get them filled … because you have already met your deductible, and it would be a shame to be in December or November and pass up an opportunity to refill something,” Votava says.
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3. Replace or update your medical equipment.
CPAP machines don’t last forever. They also aren’t cheap—according to the American Sleep Association, the average cost of a CPAP is $850. You’ll be doing your budget a huge favor by getting a new one now rather than after your deductible resets at the start of 2020, says Votava. The same goes for other medical equipment, such as knee braces, blood sugar monitors, infusion pumps, etc.
4. Deal with those benign skin issues.
Okay, first of all, if you have a concerning spot on your skin or need a mole removal/biopsy, don’t wait to see your doctor—this is something that you should address immediately regardless of your deductible status. However, if you have a harmless-yet-annoying skin lesion, like a seborrheic keratosis, a wart, or a skin tag, post-deductible is a great time to get it removed at your dermatologist’s office.
5. Make an appointment with a specialist.
Maybe your primary care physician referred you to a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, or an orthopedic surgeon to help sort out some persistent (albeit non-urgent) issues, but you’ve been putting it off for fear of the out-of-pocket expense. Instead of continuing to put it off, see that specialist now so you can at least get started on any diagnostic testing or treatment before year’s end (imaging and labs would be included in this, as well). “Any type of evaluation that you are already thinking of doing that seems medically necessary, you should go ahead and schedule,” Votava says. The one caveat? It might be difficult to get an appointment with a new provider before New Year’s Eve, so don’t delay, she adds.