Getting married entails major life changes, including joint finances and health insurance. Most newlyweds already have individual coverage, so they must decide which plan to keep and which one to abandon.
If you’re making this choice, your main goal is probably saving money. Health insurance premiums can be pricey, especially for retired newlyweds or those beginning their careers. And if you already have kids, or are saving up to buy a new house, all the more reason to employ thriftiness and save money on your health insurance!
What’s more, making this decision upfront and carefully can save you both a lot of stress later on. A 2009 survey showed that finances are the leading source of marital stress, with intimacy a distant second. If that statistic is any sign, your finances should be your chief concern from from day one of marriage. Given how contentious it can be, why not start with health insurance?
If you want to save money on health insurance, and lay the foundations for a healthy marriage, here are a few things to which you should definitely pay attention:
The premium for whatever health insurance plan you choose will represent a large part of your monthly budget. How large? Put it this way: in the US, annual family premiums averaged $15,745 in 2012, the same year that annual household income averaged $51,107. The upshot is clear: if you opt for a plan with too high a price tag, you’ll always be cash-strapped. Opt for one that’s too low, however, and you risk both high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. Choosing the right premium is one of the most important financial decisions a couple has to make. And starting with coverage that begins in 2015, same-sex newlyweds will have to make it too!
A high deductible can make your monthly premium pretty much worthless. You’re paying X amount each month, only to pay the majority of your medical fees out-of-pocket for your deductible when you need treatment. Most people won’t reach the deductible amount in a given year. Still, pay careful attention to your deductible, especially if you’ll need regular care, or if either of you are seniors over 65; CDC data shows an elevated risk for many chronic conditions. For newlyweds with children, most family deductibles are adjusted to family size, but it’s important to research each plan individually.
To save serious money on your health insurance plan, you need to examine how much you’ll likely spend for treatment. This is often given as a percentage of the treatment cost. For example, your insurance might cover 70% of a treatment, leaving 30% to be paid out-of-pocket, until you reach your deductible. You might need to break out the calculator to see what savings can be made, weighing your premium, deductible, and out-of-pocket expenses together.
If you take a lot of medications, prescription coverage is a must. Not every plan includes it automatically, and some pensions don’t cover it, so make sure the plan you’re considering does. A good premium and deductible won’t do you much good if you’re shelling out hundreds a month on medicine. This was previously a particularly harsh burden for those on antiretroviral and other HIV medications, but health care reforms in the past decade have made it easier than ever to pay for treatment, as long as you’ve looked into coverage options.
Convenience can have a price tag, so it’s important to think about the provider network for any insurance plan you consider. Why? Because if the network has no providers near your home, you’ll need to travel just to be seen. It might be tempting to write this off, but our health needs can change, and visits add up. Couples with young children will have a particular need for routine checkups, and research shows that each additional mile from a treatment site is linked to a 3% decline in checkup frequency! Sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more to get the care you and your family deserve.
The New Newlyweds
Gay marriage legislation in the US and internationally has created a new demographic of newlyweds, with its own healthcare and insurance needs. The Affordable Care Act won’t distinguish between same-sex and heterosexual couples, but same-sex couples will likely have different considerations in choosing coverage. Decades of research through the CDC have shown that gay men and women are at elevated risk for depression and related disorders, substance abuse, complications from smoking, and many STDs. If these trends carry over to same-sex couples, then finding fair coverage will be a challenge for many, at least until the law reflects evolving attitudes about addiction, sex, and mental health. Pending such progressive changes, then, this advice should serve same-sex couples well.
On the flipside, the proportion of older couples choosing to marry has actually declined in recent years. Many unmarried couples over 50 cited health insurance and fear of liability for a partner’s illness as a key to their decision. Given increasing longevity and the growing number of single elderly, this trend is a hint at how hard it is to coordinate health insurance and other finances later in life. For those hoping to tie the knot after 50, we hope these tips for managing health insurance make it easier to leave money out of the decision.
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of ways to save money on insurance as a newlywed, but you need to do your research and weigh your options. It might help to write out a “pros and cons” list. Review the plan package details in full. Most importantly, talk about everything. A 2011 survey found that 63 percent of couples named their finances as the main source of marital unhappiness. Yet according to a 2009 survey, only 51 percent of couples discussed how they would manage their finances before marrying. Only after you’re on the same page about health insurance can you come to an informed decision about your health, your finances, and your life together.